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Hubbard County advocates for more probation funding

ProbationMNMap.jpg
Map courtesy of Association of Minnesota Counties
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A top 2023 legislative priority for Hubbard County – and, in fact, the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) – is increasing funding for community supervision.

Probation is one form of community supervision, which is an umbrella term that also encompasses supervised release and pretrial services.

AMC is a voluntary, non-partisan statewide organization that lobbies for legislation favorable to the state’s 87 counties.

Hubbard County commissioners passed a resolution on Dec. 20 urging the Minnesota Legislature to pass a new funding formula and significant appropriation for community supervision.

County Administrator Jeff Cadwell noted that probation is not completely funded within the county.

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“We also know that our needs are probably going to be increasing,” he said.

The resolution states, “Over the past 20 years, Minnesota has become the state with the lowest level of corrections funding in the nation because the Legislature has not upheld its promise to provide adequate state resources to support community supervision, and the Legislature’s failure to adequately fund community supervision has increased local property taxes on residents and businesses.”

County commissioner Char Christenson asked for an explanation why Minnesota is last in the nation.

“I don’t think anybody really can explain why that is. They just haven’t funded it,” replied county commissioner David De La Hunt, who sits on the AMC policy committee. “The last I heard, it’s been over 10 years since there’s been a change in the funding allotment.”

De La Hunt said the AMC hopes to put pressure on the Legislature if all 87 counties pass this resolution.

The budget impact is “relatively minor” in Hubbard County, Cadwell said, but more conversations about state and county services, and their related costs, are needed.

ProbationMNMap.jpg
Map courtesy of Association of Minnesota Counties

How is probation funded in Minnesota?

There are three probation delivery systems in Minnesota that use a combination of state- and county-provided services.

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But every probation delivery system has its own method of funding.

The AMC flyer explains:

  • The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) receives a direct agency appropriation from the Legislature and is included in the governor’s budget request to the Legislature. Legislative funding is the main source of funding for the DOC. For DOC contract counties, like Hubbard County, the DOC provides all supervision services and bills the county for juvenile and adult non-felony cases. The county is eligible for a 50% reimbursement of costs.
  • CPO counties provide and pay for probation services for juveniles and adult non-felons, which is reimbursable up to 50% from the DOC. If the Legislature does not appropriate enough money to the DOC to reimburse the entire 50% of costs, the DOC pro-rates the reimbursements. CPO counties have not received the complete reimbursement amount since the 1990s.
  • CCA counties receive a subsidy from the Legislature after it passes through the DOC budget. The subsidy is distributed to the CCA counties through a complicated formula considering population, case filings, criminal defendants that are not sent to prison and adjusted net tax capacity. In most counties, the state subsidy does not cover more than one-third of costs for probation that is provided by the county on behalf of the DOC — well below the intended 50% cost-share by the state.

“A lot of the rural counties really weren’t aware how that operated,” said De La Hunt, adding a lot of county commissioners reported never seeing their DOC supervisor at their board meetings for years.
Hubbard County is fortunate, he continued, that the DOC supervisor reports to the board at least once a year.

What’s the problem?

According to AMC, “The three different funding mechanisms used to fund Minnesota’s probation systems are not only difficult to understand, but also create inequalities in service and outcomes. Every year, the three delivery systems approach the Legislature separately for funding to provide an essential public safety service.”

Counties are at a disadvantage, AMC argues, because they must rely on the DOC to include county funding in the governor’s proposed budget.

“If that does not happen, counties must bring an independent bill to ask for funding. When choosing between the state budget and county subsidies and reimbursements, legislators often cut the county funding proposals, which means that counties are consistently underfunded.”

AMC notes that counties provide about 80% of probation services and the DOC provides the other 20%.

After failing to see legislative action over the years, AMC assembled a work group, including county leaders and experts in community supervision from all three supervision delivery systems, to study the needs of community supervision departments statewide and to develop “a single funding formula that is transparent, needs-based and equitable among county and state supervision providers.”

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All three probation delivery systems are retained in this proposal, says AMC, preserving county choice.

“The simplified formula will be based on data from a workload study that is currently underway
and will be used to calculate the actual cost for probation.”

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