The Minnesota Coalition for Youth Justice is composed of community stakeholders with a vested stake in improving our juvenile justice system. Through shorter term reforms and longer term reimagining, the MN Coalition for Youth Justice seeks to build an ecosystem that is more equitable, humane and effective than the present one. To do this we:
The Coalition is seeking a Media Consultant and a Graphic & Website Designer. For more information on these positions, please see the attached files or follow the link to read more.
The Legal Rights Center has employees and contributors from a variety of different backgrounds, and we invite all our staff and volunteers to contribute to conversations on the topics of racial justice, the criminal justice system, and many more. Omi Strait, summer communications assistant for the LRC, and M. Graciela Gonzalez, volunteer attorney, contributed to this post.
The Justice System in Minnesota is anything but “just” when it comes to punishing people for the smallest of offenses codified in an overbroad Criminal Code and city ordinances. For example, walking your dog on a leash, but without the dog tag required by your city, may result in a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Indeed, many city codes include a provision stating that it is a misdemeanor offense to violate any provision of the city’s Code of Ordinances.
Of course, the piling of monetary obligations on the working poor is not restricted to a fine and surcharges. There are also Probation fees, the cost of evaluations, programming required by Probation, restitution, etc.
Most low-level offenses settle through plea bargaining and require a defendant to pay a fine. Often, judges allow a defendant to pay the fine with free work for the county, in the form of Sentence to Service, or some other form of community service, or with jail credit for time served; or the fine or part of it can be stayed with conditions. However, state law imposes a mandatory surcharge to every fine ($75 in Hennepin County), and the judges cannot stay, waive or allow an alternative form of payment for the surcharge. More onerous for our clients, nonpayment of a fine or its surcharge often results in suspension of their driving privileges. The result is no driver's license ('DL'), no job, as most people need to drive to their jobs. The state has other options to collect an unpaid fine (intercept tax refunds, pursue a civil action, etc.) The state does not need to deprive someone of his or her driving license to collect an unpaid fine. The following piece highlights the current efforts to redress some of these injustices.
This week at the LRC....
We condemn the shooting of Jacob Blake, and we hope for his full recovery
We assisted protestors in downtown Minneapolis
LRC volunteer attorneys and Minneapolis Youth Congress provided a Know Your Rights training on Thursday at Elliot Park. If you’re interested in accessing this free community legal education, please reach out to Chelsea Schmitz-Gillam for more information and to get a workshop scheduled for you and your community! firstname.lastname@example.org
This week on our social media...
"A Brief Overview (and Critique) of Carceral Feminism as a Response to Sexual Violence"
Written by the LRC's summer communications assistant
As always, please follow us on Twitter (@LegalRightsCtr), Facebook, and Instagram (@mplslegalrightscenter) to stay up to date on the news we share and work we do.
The Legal Rights Center has employees and contributors from a variety of different backgrounds, and we invite all our staff and volunteers to contribute to conversations on the topics of racial justice, the criminal justice system, and many more. This is one such piece from Omi Strait, the summer communications assistant for the LRC.
One of the most common responses I’ve heard to the proposition of abolishing or defunding police and prisons is “What about sexual assault? What is going to happen to the rapists? You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to take away protection for those most vulnerable. You’re not a feminist.” My first reaction to this response is that it assumes that accountability for sexual violence is only legitimate through punitive responses, and therefore that abolition and gender justice are oppositional. However, my understanding of feminism and abolition is that they are both supposed to be liberatory. So how can feminism rely on institutions like the prison industrial complex (PIC), which is incredibly harmful and racist, to fulfill its goals? How did mainstream feminism become synonymous with, and lend legitimacy to, carceral responses to sexual violence?
On Sunday, 29 year old Jacob Blake was shot in the back 7 times, in front of his children, by Kenosha police officers. In a historic summer centered on affirming that Black Lives Matter, once again the police have shown an absolute disregard for Black life. There is no excuse for the officers’ actions. Not complying with the police does not justify shooting an individual in the back, and the violent behavior of these officers stands in stark contrast to the peaceful actions of Jacob Blake, who was simply trying to de-escalate a fight.
Police violence against Black people is not new. Just like in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and so many others, there will be calls to charge and fire the officers involved in the violence against Blake. As this happens, do not allow the police to warp the narrative around this shooting. Do not allow the police or anyone else to justify this violence or diminish this harm by emphasizing any current or past allegations of wrongdoing.
We must use this time to fundamentally change the systems that allow officers to go without accountability for their actions - e.g., police indemnity, the process of charging & prosecuting officers for their crimes, and the actions (or inaction) of those who can influence what policing looks like. Do not forget about those, like Breonna Taylor, whose killers have not yet been held accountable.
We at the Legal Rights Center condemn this and all other acts of police brutality, and will continue to seek widespread change in the criminal legal system. We hope for Jacob Blake’s recovery as he fights for his life, and we stand with him, his family and the community in calling for justice. To support protestors in Kenosha, please consider donating to the Milwaukee Freedom Fund here: https://supportwomenshealth.salsalabs.org/mkefreedomfund/index.html
The Legal Rights Center
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The Legal Rights Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit financially supported by: the State of Minnesota, foundations, local law firms, corporations and individuals. Clients are never charged for our services.