Police officer writes traffic citationWe are proud of our local involvement with local criminal expungement resources, but expungement is not the last word in ”second chances.” For instance, you may have recently watched HBO’s Rock and a Hard Place, a documentary about Miami-Dade County offenders facing long prison sentences who get the chance to participate in a 16-week bootcamp-style regimen instead.  Each of the cadets on this show has been given a choice by their judge: incarceration or rehabilitation. From crew-cuts to pushups, this correction program is modeled on a tough, military-style code of discipline and order, which later includes anger-management instruction and vocational skills training. Creator Dwayne Johnson based this documentary on his own run-ins with the law as a youth.  See this excellent review of the show.

We are sometimes asked if Minnesota has such a boot camp-inspired penal model, and he answer is yes! Minnesota’s Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) provides a similar military-style boot camp experience for offenders, which can potentially shave years from total time to be served.  Unlike the Miami model, the state Commissioner of Corrections selects these offenders, not all of which are eligible.   A 2006 evaluation showed Minnesota’ CIP to reduce an offender’s chance of reoffending with a new crime by 35%, and also to have reduced costs by over $18 million.

A similar but simpler “second chance” program was featured in last week’s news, this one meant for those with suspended drivers licenses due to unpaid tickets. In these cases, the offenders cannot afford to pay their traffic tickets, which leads to revocation or suspension of licenses. Faced with the choice of not being able to get to work or driving illegally in order to put food on the table, many offenders predictably choose the latter.  This Driver Diversion Pilot Program allows offenders to take special driving classes and schedule a payoff for their fines. In return they get their drivers license and insurance reinstated. This pilot program was launched by the legislature for selected cities in 2008, and there is currently a movement to get this program statewide and permanent. The hope is to keep a single traffic infraction from being the factor that ultimately pulls a person down to the point that they no longer have a job and now have a court record to hold them back. This kind of downward spiral is a significant problem, and was considered a major source of the tension behind the Ferguson riots.

 

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