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  • MN Justice Research Center

Toward a Just Minnesota: Recap of the Justice for All Coalition's Legislative Preview Event


By Sumaya Mohamed, Government Affairs Specialist at Firefly Advocacy



On Thursday, February 8th, 2024, the Justice for All Coalition hosted its 2nd Annual Legislative Preview at the Sabathani Community Center. The event brought together a diverse panel of professionals, policymakers, and community members to discuss the theme of "Moving Toward a Just Minnesota." Here's a recap of the insightful discussions and key takeaways from the event.


Building a Legal System Rooted in Racial Equity and Justice

Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley (District 4) set the tone for the evening with powerful opening remarks, emphasizing the urgent need to address racial disparities in the legal system. She highlighted the importance of listening to marginalized communities and centering their voices in policymaking. Commissioner Conley called for a holistic approach to justice that goes beyond punitive measures and focuses on healing and restoration.



A Panel Discussion on Legislative Priorities

The heart of the event was a robust panel discussion on legislative priorities and highlighting the need for fair practices, equitable distribution of resources, accountability, and restoration in the criminal legal system.


Senator Clare Oumou Verbeten (66, DFL) shared how she approaches addressing inequalities within the legal system. She touched on how crucial it is to recognize that racial disparities are not simply the result of individual actions but are deeply embedded in our institutions and policies. In addition, highlighted the importance of community engagement. “We must actively listen to and involve communities most impacted by these disparities in the policymaking process.” Senator Oumou Verbeten said. 


Representative Frazier (43A, DFL) emphasized the paramount need for community safety. He discussed the need for holistic approaches that address the underlying issues contributing to crime, like changing pre-text laws and other upstream policy and funding solutions, including investing in mental health services, diversion programs, and community policing initiatives. 


Commissioner Schnell of the Minnesota Department of Corrections detailed the importance of rehabilitation and restoration in the criminal legal system. Providing support services for individuals reentering society after incarceration is crucial, he said. Doing so not only reduces recidivism but also promotes successful reintegration back into the community. Addressing trauma is also critical, as many individuals involved in the legal system have experienced trauma and require specialized support to heal. By addressing these issues, we can create a legal system that is not only just but also compassionate and supportive.


Representative Nadeau (34A, R) touched on a recent experience he had with youth receiving services while in the legal system and how support services can be useful in rehabilitation. He discussed the importance of empowering communities and addressing the root causes of crime.



Justice for All Legislative Priorities for the 2024 Session 

The Justice for All Coalition finalized its legislative agenda, which focuses on various issues ranging from police accountability to post-conviction relief, and asked panelists if any of hte 15 items stood out as most important. 


Senator Oumou Verbeten emphasized the importance of police accountability measures. Representative Nadeau couldn’t identify an item but stated that he looked forward to learning more about the items in more depth. Representative Frazier called for increased funding for mental health services and programs to address underlying issues that contribute to crime. Commissioner Schnell stressed the importance of reentry programs and support services for individuals reentering society after incarceration.


Advancing Public Safety Through Legislative Action

While the Legislature passed many meaningful public safety bills during the last session, panelists identified several crucial priorities for 2024. 


The Justice for All Coalition's Legislative Preview event provided a platform for meaningful discussions and insights into how Minnesota can move towards a more just and equitable legal system. By focusing on racial equity, accountability, and community empowerment, the state can take significant strides toward building a legal system that truly serves all its residents.


The event was sponsored by the Minnesota Justice Research Center, the Twin Cities Urban League, the Minneapolis NAACP, Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, Council of Minnesotans of African Heritage, and Arnold Ventures.




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