New bill would allow some elderly inmates to be released early

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Alex Chhith, Star Tribune
·2 min read
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A new bill would shorten sentences for some elderly inmates in Minnesota.

The prosecutor-initiated resentencing bill would allow some elderly inmates to get out of prison earlier than scheduled, according to news release Tuesday from the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. The bill, introduced in the House by Kelly Moeller, DFL-Shoreview, would also allow the inmate's victim or family of the victim to give their opinion on early release.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Ramsey Attorney John Choi and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison joined the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition in a virtual news conference to support the bill. It is similar to bills in California and Washington.

"I have long felt that we should have few, if any, inmates over 65 or 70," said Freeman. "Sentences that may be appropriate when they were imposed are not appropriate today."

Not every inmate would be eligible, according to Choi. The inmate would have to submit an application to the county attorney whose office presided over the conviction and sentencing. The county attorney would then investigate to see if the inmate had redeemed themselves and shown clear evidence of rehabilitation.

Ultimately, the decision would be left up to a judge.

In the statement, Ellison noted the recent release of Joe Ligon of Pennsylvania. The 83-year-old was convicted of first-degree murder in 1953 when he was 15. He did not fatally stab the victim, but members of the group he was with did.

Ellison said he expects critics will ask if all eligible prisoners would apply. He said they might but added that the prosecutors don't have to approve the request.

"It's another tool in the toolbox and like all tools, we use it when it is appropriate," he said in the release.

Alex Chhith • 612-673-4759