We can potentially cap probation at 5 Years!!!

Action Alert:  Show Up for Probation Reform This Thursday, Dec. 19th!

Minnesotans across race, gender and geography support compassionate limits on retribution for our communities and families. They believe in a state that centers people, values redemption and they are ready for state policies to match the integrity of their values.

Yet, in Minnesota, probation sentences are erratic and often set much too long by national standards. This fuels mass incarceration, and does nothing to promote public safety. A handful of politicians and people in power who powerfully and financially benefit from the perpetual punishment of Black, white and brown people in our state must not continue to set the terms of who’s deserving of redemption.

We were pleased to see the MN Sentencing Guidelines Commission (MSGC) move a probation reform proposal forward to a public hearing to cap probation at 5 years! This hearing is taking place this Thursday, December 19th.

There has been significant public interest in attending and speaking at this hearing. A week ago, we were alarmed to learn of the effort to rescind this reform and cancel the public hearing. But, Glory be to God, the motion to delay/rescind the Probation reform public hearing was defeated!

While the judges raising objections initially cited procedural concerns, they also expressed desire to water down the reform proposal. They preferred to make it merely “advisory” rather than a mandatory 5-year cap on probation, and cast doubt on the MSGC’s authority to set the probation caps at all. We’re confident in the expertise of practitioners and lawyers who say they do indeed have the authority. We also agree with the Commissioners who pointed to the moral urgency of passing this reform now. Too many people have suffered for too long!

The MSGC has the power (and the responsibility) to reform probation. In November, they voted 6-5 to move reform forward to this public hearing on Dec. 19. But the Judges don’t like giving up their power – they fought back, along with the police and prosecutors on the Commission. We overcame their attempt to squash public input by canceling the public hearing! So now it’s time to turn out for it.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Come to the Hearing on Dec. 19th to speak out in favor of Probation Reform!  Let us know you’re coming here.
    1:30 p.m. (gather at 1:00pm to pre-meet and prepare)
    Room 1100, MN Senate Building, 95 University Ave W, St. Paul, MN (across from the Capitol)
  2. Come to the final vote on Thurs Jan 9 (at 1:00 p.m. in Room 230 of the Minnesota Judicial Center, 25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155)
  3. Post your support for #ProbationReform on social media
  4. Contact your legislator to tell them why you support #ProbationReform


  • Minnesota has the fifth-highest rate of community supervision (including probation) in the country. MN has nearly 100,000 people on probation – more than twice as many as Wisconsin (a larger state).
  • Minnesota state law allows for people to spend up to 40 years on probation. Extreme probation terms increase the probability for technical violations, which often lead to incarceration. In fact, about 60% of the total prison admissions in MN are for technical violations, not a new crime.
  • Minnesota’s lengthy probation sentences do not improve public safety. A uniform system for early termination from probation means more people would be successful.
  • Research shows that reoffending while on supervision is most likely to occur within the first two years of supervision. Requiring an individual to stay on probation for decades does not improve compliance or result in better criminal justice outcomes.
  • Average Minnesota probation sentences vary widely across the state. In Hennepin County the average is 3 years 2 mo, while in Ramsey County it’s nearly double (5 years 9 mo).  In the Northeast corner of the state the average is 3 years 3 months, while the far Southeast corner is nearly 7 years on average.
  • The Sentencing Guidelines Commission was set up to “maintain uniformity, proportionality, rationality, and predictability in sentencing.” They should adopt a cap on probation sentences.