Crow Wing County Board supports probation funding overhaul efforts
All 87 county boards were being asked to back the effort led by the Association of Minnesota Counties.
BRAINERD — County probation departments across Minnesota do not receive the funding promised in state law, and officials hope 2023 is the year that will change.
Crow Wing County Corrections Manager Krista Jones asked the County Board to pass a resolution in support of an updated funding formula during its Tuesday, Dec. 13, meeting. Jones said all 87 county boards were asked to back the effort, led by the Association of Minnesota Counties and a community supervision workgroup assembled to study the needs of departments.
“Last year, we believe we were very close to moving this forward, the closest we have probably ever been,” Jones said. “ … We’re hopeful with the surplus there’s even a better chance and that there will actually be some decisions made this year to move this work forward. It’s long overdue, this formula change. The current formula is extremely complicated and not fair and equitable across the systems.”
Jones said the law requires the state government to cover half of the costs of community supervision work completed by counties. In Crow Wing County, however, state funding covers just 41% of the costs, and Jones noted some counties are funded at a rate of 27-28%. As of 2019, community corrections departments in Minnesota supervised the vast majority of all those requiring supervision, or 87%.
“As you know, the county has to pick up what’s left (of the costs) if we want to have that base level of service in order to provide the supervision that’s necessary,” Jones said.
As part of the effort to develop a new funding formula, five Crow Wing County probation agents are participating in a workload study. The Association of Minnesota Counties and the American Probation and Parole Association will use data gathered in the study to create a funding proposal.
According to a 2022 report developed by the Community Supervision Funding Working Group and the Governor’s Council on Justice Reinvestment, Minnesota spent the lowest proportion of state general funds on corrections of any state, but the rate of people under supervision was 11th highest.
“Minnesota was the first state in the country to use sentencing guidelines and, as such, has limited the use of prison by following guidelines that establish a presumption of probation in most cases,” the report stated. “While this has contributed to the state’s low incarceration rate, as of 2020, 1 in every 51 adult Minnesotans were on probation, totaling more than 85,000 people.”
The report calls for a deeper examination of probation delivery, citing a concern about consistency and effectiveness across supervision systems.
“Effective supervision is hindered by a lack of statewide standards for probation, specialized training and quality assurance, community-based risk-reduction programming, housing, and appropriate behavioral health treatment options,” according to the report.
In addition to a new funding formula, Jones said the organization is lobbying the Legislature for a significant one-time appropriation during the upcoming session.
Commissioner Steve Barrows chastised the state for not living up to its promises.
“First of all, they don’t hold themselves to the standard of following the law, which they themselves write, and secondly they’re holding counties more responsible for these probation and oversight activities than they should,” Barrows said. “So they should participate at even a higher level than 50%, at my estimation.”
Commissioners unanimously approved the measure 5-0.