Justice Reinvestment Initiative in Minnesota

Justice Reinvestment Initiative in Minnesota

This overview outlines a number of criminal justice challenges in Minnesota, presents criminal justice system trends in the state, and provides a summary of the stages of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative process.

Michelle Rodriguez, Grace Call, Carl Reynolds, David D'Amora | May 2022 | The Council of State Governments Justice Center


Minnesota has a long history of innovating and developing new models to advance its criminal justice systems and improve outcomes. It was the first state to adopt sentencing guidelines and has worked to safely reduce its prison and incarcerated populations over the past 20 years. Still, Minnesota’s rate of people under correctional control is 11th highest in the nation, driven by its high probation rate, which is 5th highest in the country.1

In 2019, of the nearly 122,000 people under correctional control in Minnesota, 87 percent were on community super­vision.² Additionally, Black and Native American people are overrepresented across Minnesota’s criminal justice system, and the complex system by which probation is administered and funded has led to inconsistent access to critical services for people on probation. It also limits state and local leaders’ ability to analyze community cor­rections trends and implement best practices to achieve better outcomes for people and communities across the state. Minnesotans deserve a first-rate community super­vision system that provides individuals with the supervi­sion and services they require to successfully and safely transition back into their community.

In Minnesota, the annual cost of managing correctional facilities, supporting county supervision partners, and pro­viding reentry services totals well over $600 million.³ As budgets have increased over time, and complex funding structures have evolved,4 Minnesota has not completed an independent, comprehensive assessment of the dol­lars spent to determine the impact on public safety until now. State and county leaders are committed to using data and engaging extensively with people across the state to conduct such an assessment with the goal of making the community supervision system cost-effective, equitable, and just while balancing state and local responsibility.

In the spring of 2021, Governor Tim Walz, Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, then-Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, Senator Julie A. Rosen, and Association of Minnesota Counties then-Presi­dent Rich Sve requested support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) to utilize a Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) approach to address these challenges. As public-private partners in the federal JRI program, BJA and Pew approved Minnesota state leaders’ request and asked The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to partner with state leaders in this effort. Through JRI, Minnesota is using an independent, bipartisan, interbranch approach for the first time to address its fractured probation supervision sys­tem with systemic recommendations to improve supervi­sion across the state.

The Governor’s Council on Justice Reinvestment—a bipar­tisan, interbranch committee created through Executive Order 21-34—and the Delivery System Standards and Funding Policy Working Group—a committee established in House Filing (HF) 63 to update the state’s supervision funding formula—are overseeing the project. Under their direction, CSG Justice Center staff analyzed case-level sentencing, probation, and prison data to learn more about criminal justice trends and outcomes in the state. CSG Justice Center staff also convened focus groups, conducted assessments, and interviewed key stakehold­ers in Minnesota’s criminal justice system. Based on the findings from these quantitative and qualitative analyses, the Governor’s Council on Justice Reinvestment and the Delivery System Standards and Funding Policy Working Group are developing policy options aimed at strength­ening the state’s criminal justice system, improving the outcomes of people on community supervision, and ensur­ing equitable distribution of resources across the state.

This overview highlights some recent criminal justice trends in Minnesota. Information presented here is based on Minnesota statutes, publicly available reports from state agencies, or federal reports.

Criminal Justice System Trends in Minnesota

Minnesota has the fifth-highest probation rate in the country.

• In 2019, Minnesota had the 5th-highest rate of people on probation in the nation, with 23 adults on probation per 1,000 adult residents.5 In contrast, Minnesota had the 5th-lowest incarceration rate in 2019, with 2 people impris­oned per 1,000 adult residents.6 In total, Minnesota’s rate of people under correctional control is 11th highest among states. (See Figure 1.)

• Other states with low incarceration rates, such as Massachusetts and Maine, maintain much lower probation rates, 42nd and 48th, respectively.7 Similarly, Wisconsin, which has a much larger prison population, has a lower cor­rectional control rate than Minnesota—25th in the nation.

• Counties can choose from three options as to how they will participate in probation and post-incarceration super­vised release and what form of funding they will receive.8 They can (1) opt to administer all correctional field ser­vices themselves according to the Minnesota Community Corrections Act (CCA); (2) supervise adults charged with misdemeanors and youth in the juvenile justice system, with the Department of Corrections (DOC) providing fel­ony supervision, according to the County Probation Officer (CPO) model; or (3) have DOC manage the entire caseload for the county.9 Of the total probation population, 71 per­cent are supervised under the CCA system, 11 percent are supervised under the CPO system, and 18 percent are supervised by the DOC—over 80 percent of the probation population is supervised at the local level.10 (See Table 1).


Sentences to probation make up about three-quarters of all felony sentences in Minnesota.

• Minnesota has limited the use of prison by following guide­lines that create a presumption of probation in most cas­es.11 In 2019, 24 percent of sentences were to prison, while the remaining 76 percent were to probation demon­strating the state’s reliance on community supervision and the importance of having an effective and efficient supervision system.12

• Despite the high rate of sentences to community super­vision, the vast majority of sentences include a period of incarceration. In 2019, 77 percent of women and 65 per­cent of men received incarceration in a local correctional facility (jail) as a condition of their probation.13


Black and Native American people are overrepresented in Minnesota’s probation and prison systems.

• The rate of Black adults on felony probation in 2019 was nearly 5 times higher than that of White adults on felony probation.14 For Native Americans, this rate was more than 9 times higher than for White adults.15

• Between 2015 and 2019, the number of Black adults on felony probation increased 9 percent, from 8,636 to 9,371, and the number of Native American adults on felony proba­tion increased 13 percent, from 2,664 to 3,018.16 During the same period, the number of White adults on felony probation increased 1 percent, from 29,300 to 29,621.17

• Native Americans on probation have higher revocation rates than other racial and ethnic groups for all offense types. While the revocation rate for people on probation for property offenses who are non-Native American is, on average, 12 percent, the rate for Native Americans is almost double, at 23 percent.18

• Despite making up just 6 percent of the state’s adult pop­ulation,19 Black people accounted for 37 percent of the prison population in 2019.20 Additionally, although Native Americans make up just 1 percent of the state’s adult population,21 they accounted for 9 percent of the prison population that year.22

Recent increases in the state’s supervised release population support further study of the impact of sentencing practices on supervised release.

• Minnesota uses a determinate sentencing system in which people serve two-thirds of their sentence in prison and the last one-third under supervised release in the com­munity. The supervised release population increased 17 percent between 2015 and 2019, from 4,769 to 5,568 people.23

• During the same period, the intensive supervised release population, which is composed of high-risk people under supervision for violent or repeat sexual offenses, decreased 26 percent, from 1,168 to 866.24

• In 2020, however, both the supervised release and inten­sive supervised release populations increased by 8 per­cent and 4 percent, respectively.25

Probation violations and supervised release returns account for nearly two-thirds of prison admissions.

• In 2019, approximately 23 percent of prison admissions were the result of probation violations.26

• An average of 2,911 people in prison each day in 2019 were incarcerated as a result of a supervision violation (including probation and supervised release violations).27 Any estimates of the state’s financial burden for super­vision violations do not account for the substantial local costs of jailing people who violate probation conditions.28

The prevalence of people with behavioral health and substance use conditions poses serious challenges for Minnesota’s criminal justice system.

• Approximately 90 percent of Minnesota’s prison popula­tion has been diagnosed with substance use disorders.29 In 2019, roughly 6,500 people were assessed as needing substance use treatment each year; however, the DOC is funded to treat only 1,600 incarcerated people annually. 30

• In 2017, more than 17 percent of incarcerated women were assessed as having an opioid use disorder (OUD), and 32 percent of incarcerated Native American women were assessed as having an OUD.31

• In 2019, 30 percent of men and 60 percent of women in prison used mental health services offered by the Minnesota DOC Health Services Unit.32

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative Approach

Step 1:
Analyze data and develop policy options

Under the direction of the Governor’s Council on Justice Reinvestment and the Delivery System Standards and Funding Policy Working Group, CSG Justice Center staff conducted a comprehensive analysis of case-level sen­tencing, community corrections, and incarceration data to examine probation, supervised release, incarceration, and recidivism trends as well as the risk and needs of the supervised and incarcerated population. CSG Justice Center staff also explored how those trends relate to stat­utory and administrative policies, criminal justice expen­ditures, and the availability of treatment and programs designed to reduce recidivism. To the extent data were available, CSG Justice Center staff assessed how felony sentencing trends impact probation, supervised release, and incarcerated populations and explored contributors to recidivism trends. All analyses are being presented to help the state learn more about how race, gender, and geographic trends vary and how these factors may impact outcomes. The analyses will result in findings related to the sources of correctional population growth, high recidivism rates, and effectiveness of agency policies and procedures.

To incorporate perspectives and recommendations from across the state, CSG Justice Center staff gathered input from criminal justice system stakeholders, including judges, district attorneys, defense lawyers, sheriffs, police chiefs, probation officers and administrators, behavioral health treatment providers, victims and their advocates, people in the criminal justice system and their advocates, Tribal leaders, residents and leaders in communities where con­fidence in the criminal justice system may be low, local officials, and others.

With guidance from the Governor’s Council on Justice Reinvestment and the Delivery System Standards and Funding Policy Working Group, CSG Justice Center staff are reviewing the analyses and developing data-driven pol­icy options focused on improving the efficacy and equity of resources for community supervision, reducing recidi­vism, addressing the behavioral health needs of people in the criminal justice system, strengthening victim sup­port and resources, and allowing the state to track the returns on public investment.

Specifically, HF 63 charges the Delivery System Standards and Funding Policy Working Group with identifying path­ways for how the state and counties can achieve an effec­tive supervision system together, balancing local control with state support and collaboration. They must identify the following:

1. A proposal for sustainable funding of the state’s com­munity supervision delivery systems

2. A plan for the potential of future Tribal government supervision of people on probation and supervised release

3. A definition of core or base-level supervision stan­dards in accordance with the state’s obligation to fund or provide supervision services that are geo­graphically equitable and reflect the principles of modern correctional practice

4. A recommended funding model and the associated costs as compared to the state’s current investment in those services

5. Alternative funding and delivery models and the alter­native models’ associated costs when compared with the state’s current investment in those services

6. Mechanisms to ensure a balanced application of increases in the cost of community supervision services

Policy options will be available for the Governor’s Council on Justice Reinvestment’s and the Delivery System Standards and Funding Policy Working Group’s consideration in early 2022, and approved recommendations will then be pro­vided to the legislature.


Step 2:
Adopt new policies and put reinvestment strategies into place

If the policy options are adopted, Minnesota state leaders will have the opportunity to request continued assistance from the CSG Justice Center. If the request is approved, CSG Justice Center staff will work with Minnesota policy­makers to translate the new policies into practice. This assistance will help ensure that related programs and system investments achieve projected outcomes and are implemented with fidelity. CSG Justice Center staff will develop implementation plans with state and local officials and provide policymakers with frequent progress reports.


Step 3:
Measure performance

Finally, CSG Justice Center staff will help Minnesota offi­cials improve statewide data collection and sharing to measure and monitor performance as well as, ultimately, increase the state’s capacity for making data-driven deci­sions in criminal justice policymaking and budgeting. This could include identifying key data points to record and officials who are best positioned to collect data, as well as exploring best practices to track, monitor, share, and analyze data. Improvements in this area will allow state leaders to assess the impact of enacted policies on pre­trial, probation, post-release supervision, and incarcer­ated populations, including recidivism rates, and develop strategies to monitor these outcomes.


1. Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, 2021 Report to the Legislature (Saint Paul, MN: Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, 2021), https://mn.gov/sentencing-guidelines/assets/2021MinnSentencingGu­idelinesCommReportLegislature_tcm30-463260.pdf.

2. Todd D. Minton, Lauren G. Beatty, and Zhen Zeng, Ph.D., Correctional Populations in the United States, 2019– Statistical Tables (Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2021); Minnesota Department of Corrections, Adult Prison Population Summary (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Corrections, January 2020); Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2019 Probation Survey (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Corrections, April 2020); CSG Justice Center analysis of MN DOC supervised release data.

3. “Current Estimates of State Budget,” Minnesota Management and Budget, accessed February 15, 2021, https://mn.gov/mmb/budget/ state-budget-overview/current-estimates/.

4. SF 878, 89th Senate Reg. Sess. (MN 2015) (the most recent amendment to the Community Corrections Act formula).

5. Barbara Oudekerk and Danielle Kaeble, Probation and Parole in the United States, 2019 (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2021). In 2019, the reported rate was 2,427 per 100,000 adults.

6. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2017–2019 (Washington, DC: United States Department of Justice, 2018–2020). The year 2019 is the most recent published by BJS. In 2019, the adult incarceration rate was 229 per 100,000 adults, or 2.2 per 1000 adults.

7. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Probation and Parole, 2019.

8. “About MACCAC,” Minnesota Association of Community Corrections Act Counties – MACCAC, accessed March 27, 2020, http://www.maccac.org.

9. Ibid.

10. Minnesota Department of Corrections, Probation Survey, 2019.

11. Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, 2019 Sentencing Practices (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, 2020).

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Minnesota Department of Corrections, Probation Survey, 2019.

15. Ibid.

16. Minnesota Department of Corrections, Probation Survey, 2019.

17. Ibid

18. Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, 2019 Probation Revocations (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, 2020), https://mn.gov/msgc-stat/documents/reports/2019/2019MSGCRe­portProbationRevocations.pdf.

19. “Explore Census Data,” United States Census Bureau, accessed March 8, 2021, https://data.census.gov; Minnesota Department of Corrections, Adult Prison Population Summary, 2019.

20. Minnesota Department of Corrections, Adult Prison Population Summary, 2019.

21. “Explore Census Data,” United States Census Bureau, accessed March 8, 2021, https://data.census.gov; Minnesota Department of Corrections, Adult Prison Population Summary, 2019.

22. Minnesota Department of Corrections, Adult Prison Population Summary, 2019.

23. Minnesota Department of Corrections, Probation Survey, 2019.

24. Ibid.

25. Minnesota Department of Corrections, Probation Survey, 2020.

26. “Minnesota: Supervision Violation Data Snapshot” from More Community, Less Confinement, CSG Justice Center, 2021, https://csgjusticecenter.org/publications/ more-community-less-confinement/50-state-reports/?usState=MN.


28. Ibid.

29. Substance Use Disorder Treatment Services in Prison (Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2019).

30. Ibid.

31. CSG Justice Center communication with Minnesota state officials, May 14, 2019.

32. Mental Health Services (Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2019), https://mn.gov/doc/assets/Mental%20Health%20Services_tcm1089- 489585.pdf



This project was supported by Grant No. 2019- ZB-BX-K002 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this doc­ument are those of the author and do not necessar­ily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.





The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. The CSG Justice Center’s work in justice reinvestment is done in part­nership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. These efforts have provided data-driven analyses and policy options to policymakers in 26 states. For additional information about Justice Reinvestment, please visit csgjusticecenter.org/jr/.




Research and analysis described in this report has been funded in part by The Pew Charitable Trusts public safety performance project. Launched in 2006 as a project of the Pew Center on the States, the public safety performance project seeks to help states advance fiscally sound, data-driven policies and practices in sentencing and corrections that protect public safety, hold people accountable, and control corrections costs. To learn more about the project, please visit pewtrusts.org/publicsafety.

Project Contact:

Michelle Rodriguez, Project Manager, mrodriguez@csg.org

Project Credits:

Writing: Michelle Rodriguez, Grace Call, Carl Reynolds, David D’Amora, CSG Justice Center

Research: Jessica Gonzales-Bricker, Matt Herman CSG Justice Center

Advising: Ellen Whelan-Wuest, Elizabeth Lyon, CSG Justice Center

Editing: Leslie Griffin, CSG Justice Center

Public Affairs: Brenna Callahan, CSG Justice Center

About the authors

Image for:
Deputy Program Director, State Initiatives
Michelle Rodriguez provides policy research, analysis, and technical assistance to states undergoing the Justice Reinvestment process. Michelle has worked on Justice Reinvestment projects in Rhode Island, North Dakota, and New Mexico. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, she worked
at Casey Family Programs, where she coordinated services to youth, young adults, and families involved in the child welfare system. Earlier in her career, Michelle was a mitigation specialist with the King County Office of Public Defense. In that role, she transitioned between the felony, mental health, and juvenile court systems to develop individual sentencing alternatives. Michelle received her BS in psychology and criminal justice at Seattle University and her MSW from the University of Washington.
Read More
  • Image for:
    Director, State Initiatives
    Grace Beil Call, as director of state initiatives at The Council of State Governments Justice Center, advances policies for a more effective, equitable, and responsive criminal justice system. Her contributions, alongside those of people on the state initiatives team, are
    evident in programs like Justice Reinvestment, Justice Counts, and Lantern. Before her role at the CSG Justice Center, she served as a visiting fellow for the Office for Victims of Crime at the U.S. Department of Justice. Grace directed the Victims of Crime Act program for the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy in Washington, showcasing her understanding of victim services and work as a State Administering Agency. Her leadership included directing the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and she began her advocacy as a volunteer at the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, more than 25 years ago. Grace holds a BS in gender studies from the University of Utah.
    Read More
  • Image for:
    Senior Legal and Policy Advisor, State Initiatives
    Carl Reynolds helps manage and develop projects related to courts, corrections, law enforcement, and sentencing. He works on Justice Reinvestment and other projects where expert legal and policy research is needed. Previously, Carl served as director of the Texas Office
    of Court Administration. From 1997 to 2005, he was general counsel for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), responsible for prisons, probation, and parole. He also was general counsel to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice—the governing body for TDCJ. Prior to that position, he was the executive director of the Texas Punishment Standards Commission, general counsel to the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, director of the Senate's redistricting staff, and a briefing attorney for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Carl holds a BA from the University of Cincinnati, an MA from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and a JD from the University of Texas School of Law. 
    Read More
  • Image for:
    Senior Policy Advisor, State Initiatives
    David D’Amora advises on risk and needs assessment, correctional programming, and the intersection of behavioral health and criminogenic needs. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, David worked in the criminal justice and behavioral health fields for more than 30
    years. This included serving as the vice president of agency programs for a community-based agency providing multiple types of correctional and behavioral health treatment to formerly incarcerated people under community supervision. David was also a clinician at Somers State Prison and Meriden-Wallingford Hospital in Connecticut as well as a consultant with a national criminal justice technical assistance provider. A licensed professional counselor and certified forensic counselor, David earned his BA from Franklin College and his MS at Butler University.
    Read More
  • You might also be interested in

    Explainer: Minnesota’s Justice Reinvestment Legislation Results in $43.6 Million Annual Increase in Community Supervision System

    In May 2023, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a sweeping public safety omnibus bill into law, which is…

    Read More

    Biden Signs Six-Bill Spending Package Funding Key Criminal Justice Programs

    On March 9, 2024, President Joe Biden signed a $460 billion spending package for Fiscal Year 2024, allocating…

    Read More