HMN Collaborates to Promote Second Chances for Those Who Have Paid Debt to Society

By Christine Retkwa

HumanistsMN believes in collaborating with groups whose goals align with the humanist value of enabling all humans to thrive — recognizing that collaboration is the key to forming the mass needed to make an impact. 

December’s newsletter highlighted our work with Compassion & Choices to promote medical aid in dying. Now HumanistsMN has stepped up again by becoming an organizational-level member of Minnesota Second Chance Coalition, which works to give persons who have been punished for crimes meaningful opportunities to live, work, and grow after they have paid their debt to society.

The coalition, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, advocates changes in Minnesota laws including: eliminating the debt-to-jail trap of fines and fees for low-income individuals, reducing the state’s lengthy felony probation periods, and restoring voting rights for people who have served their prison sentences.

Its organizing efforts have produced some progress. After hearing convincing testimony at a public hearing, the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission voted on Jan. 9 to limit probation to five years, unless a judge provides an exception. 

Minnesota currently has the fifth-highest number of residents on probation – which often lasts decades, including for drug offenses. This directly hinders the ability of these people to flourish by blocking their access to jobs and housing; it also prevents them from being able to vote and express their self-interest as citizens. This policy is not retroactive. It will likely take effect in August 2020 – unless, as seems unlikely, both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature intervene.

To bring attention to its goals, Minnesota Second Chance Coalition has organized a Day on the Hill rally at the State Capitol from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Feb. 12. The group is also scheduling visits to legislators. Sign up for the HumanistsMN meetup to join in and show your support!  

As an organizational member, HumanistsMN gets three free admissions to any Second Chance-hosted training and often special-admission prices to events the coalition co-hosts.  Such events  typically occur every month or two; the last talk was on “The Unrecognized American Citizen: Overcoming Poverty and Sustaining An Abuse Free Life.”

We will attempt to post most events on our private Facebook group and, in some cases, create a HumanistsMN Meetup event. Alternatively, to keep advised of the coalition’s activities and good work, check out their website or Facebook group.

Please let us  know if you want to claim one of the free or reduced admissions to any of their events by sending an email to Dues-paying HMN members will be given priority for the three slots.

HumanistsMN is pleased to collaborate with this worthy and well organized partner working toward an environment enabling all Minnesotans to flourish!

Christine Retkwa is co-chair of HumanistsMN’s Social Action Team.


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