Minneapolis Tribune of Stars. April 17, 2022.
Editorial: A Complex Fix for a Crack in the Justice System
“Skills restoration” is difficult but necessary. The legislative teamwork on this is commendable.
Expect to hear a lot about public safety in the upcoming fall elections.
On the ballot: both houses of the Minnesota Legislature, the office of the governor and the state attorney general. Rising crime rates in the metro and beyond have already made the issue a campaign centerpiece for Republicans and the DFL. The rhetoric will only intensify as November 8 approaches.
The fate of mostly under-the-radar but critical criminal justice reform on the state Capitol this session will help voters separate candidates willing to provide the hard work needed for meaningful improvements from those who are not. That’s why Minnesota House bills HF 2725 and its Senate companion, SF 3395, are getting a lot of attention as lawmakers return from recess.
This set of reforms is worth adopting because it offers sensible remedies to close a fundamental crack in the justice system involving the “restoration of skills”. A 2021 Legislative Task Force report explains:
“Persons charged with crimes have a constitutional and statutory right not to be tried if a judge determines that they are unable to understand the proceedings or participate in their defense due to mental illness or cognitive impairment. When a person is found to be incompetent, the prosecution of criminal charges must wait until the person becomes competent or the charges are dismissed.
The crack in the system occurs when charges are delayed or dismissed. There should be clear pathways for “restoration” – meaning these citizens have access to the medical care, education and resources they so clearly need. But Minnesota and many other states have long lacked the detailed legal framework to ensure that happens.
Instead, the person deemed incompetent “should be fired for possible civil engagement.” Some meet this threshold and some do not because there is a mismatch between the thresholds of civil recognizance (essentially, detaining someone in a treatment facility) and fitness to stand trial.
Those who are not civilly bound can be left to seek treatment voluntarily. Nothing in the law obliges them to do so. The law also does not require “any state agency or local unit of government to provide treatment for skill restoration,” the task force said.
The consequences can include continued struggles with illness, finances, housing – circumstances in which these citizens become victims of crime themselves. Or, reoffend. A KARE-11 series on jurisdiction has raised troubling questions about whether that discrepancy allowed the man charged with mass shooting in 2021 at a clinic in Buffalo, Minnesota, to acquire a firearm.
The public interest in prevention is compelling. How many Minnesotans make it through the skill crack? The state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) analyzed state court data. It estimates “1,800 cases with a verdict of incompetence on all charges in 2021 (827 felonies, 232 felonies, 740 misdemeanors) … if an average of 40% of these were committed, 60% would be cases difference and that’s about 1,080 people in a year. A caveat: “The same person can be declared incompetent more than once, so the number of findings could be (and is probably) higher than the number of persons.”
The proposed legislative fixes provide the legal framework that the state currently lacks. The package also notably includes a new team of “forensic navigators” who would work across the state to actively refer people in need of restoration to the care they need.
The reforms are the result of several years of work by the task force. Its members include representatives from NAMI, the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, the judiciary, medical providers as well as advocates for victims of crime.
The fact that legislative advocates are bipartisan inspires confidence in the ability of state legislators to rise above politics and get the tough stuff done. Restoring skills is complex and helps those who are too often “in the shadows,” as Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake puts it. Defenders include Rep. Heather Edelson, DFL-Edina, Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester and Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka.
The patches come at a significant price – around $116 million for the 2024-25 biennium, according to a tax memo. Proponents, however, dispute this and say additional information could reduce the cost.
Attempts to solve this problem cheaply should be rejected. A troubling crack in the justice system is a serious problem, which requires comprehensive solutions. Lawmakers should embrace the excellent work done by the task force and enact reforms reflecting its recommendations.
St. Cloud Times. April 17, 2022.
Editorial: We have a decisive summer on our hands
As the runners prepared for the return of St. Cloud’s Earth Day Half Marathon, their training was undoubtedly focused on stamina, strength and endurance.
These three qualities will be demonstrated throughout the summer by the diehard organizers of the events that enrich the quality of life and the community in central Minnesota.
The return of Earth Day Run events symbolically marks a long-awaited return to large-scale community events after more than two years of on-and-off uncertainty. As COVID-19 rose and fell in waves, organizers and sponsors of festivals, races, concerts, performances, awards programs and parades were adrift. Should we go ahead or not? Are we even allowed to? How to ensure the safety of people? Will anyone come?
And even: Why are we doing this? Is it time to move on to other priorities?
Any break in momentum or forced reduction provides fertile ground for reassessment. When it comes to large-scale efforts, usually run by volunteers or corporations deploying their staff and resources to organize an event for the community, a pause is always an opportunity to reflect: “Is it’s worth it ? Is it time to quit or move on?
Every decision to “carry on” will be evident this summer. Church festivals and parades, food parties and awards programs, races and concerts, and golf scrambles are all concrete evidence that people who were lucky enough to back down did not. They decided to continue putting in mountains of work, despite what no one is saying out loud: it’s always harder to restart or rebuild a project after a hiatus or downturn than to keep it running at an annual rate.
The small groups of people who run the events we’ve all missed have taken deep, conscious breaths to keep doing all the (usually thankless) work because they believe in community. They recruited new team members to fill vacancies created by the hiatus. They try to make budgets work and get sponsors on board after a year or two “off”. They try to remember how they used to handle challenge A or detail B. And all the vendors and organizations they partner with do the same.
In other words, as hard as it is at the best of times to stage the events that make a community, it’s harder this year. Harder.
And that’s why this year, showing up matters. Volunteering to help is the obvious answer. Donating cash or in-kind goods is more important than ever to help stretch dollars.
But introduce yourself? Do this, even if you don’t do anything else. Line up this parry course. Go see this free concert. Sign up for the 5K charity. Take part in the golf scramble or the fishing tournament. Show that it matters to you, as this is a landmark year for some of our community’s special events.
As we all try to make up for lost time, lost trips, and lost gatherings, remember to support Central Minnesota’s signature events. Because the success or failure of this summer will cement those decisions to continue or end efforts.
Mankato Free Press. April 19, 2022.
Editorial: Paddle sports are wonderful, but practice is necessary
One of the silver linings of the pandemic was more people connecting or reconnecting with the outdoors.
Bicycling, simple walks, gardening, visiting parks, bird watching and other outdoor activities have surged.
Paddle sports were no exception. A record 38 million people took to lakes and rivers to kayak, canoe and use stand-up paddleboards in 2020, according to the latest data from the Outdoor Foundation.
The number includes 2.5 million paddlers who were new to the sport.
But the increase has also led to an increase in accidents. There were 331 accidents and 202 fatalities, also a record. Paddling-related fatalities accounted for about a quarter of all boating-related fatalities in 2020.
The US Coast Guard said virtually all fatalities were among less experienced paddlers: 75% had less than 100 hours of experience in the activity and 39% had less than 10 hours of experience.
Most accidents happen in calm water due to falling overboard or capsizing. Untrained paddlers generally don’t know how to get back once they’ve fallen, don’t wear a life jacket, and aren’t prepared for cold water exposure.
The increased traffic of motorized boats and jet skis and ever larger boats, including wakeboard boats that create massive waves, only increases the risk of capsizing.
Those into paddle sports or with little experience can protect themselves by taking advantage of the many free or low-cost safety training resources, including many online safety training programs.
Paddlers should also remember that they are subject to boating rules which require them to follow boating rules and carry the required safety equipment for their size and type of watercraft.
Experts say paddlers can also minimize risk by wearing a life jacket, dressing for the weather, checking the weather forecast and paddling sober.
Of course, there are risks involved in jumping into the water. But paddling is a wonderful, accessible and inexpensive experience. Getting your craft in the water is easy, no license is required and excellent exercise is required.
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