NEW ULM - Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) Deputy Commissioner Ron Solheid told the Brown County Corrections Activity Council Friday there is reason for optimism about Gov. Mark Dayton's budget.
"It's a progressive budget, set to get Minnesota on track to reinvest in education, jobs and help government sustain programs and services as the economy recovers," Solheid said at a Kaiserhoff noon luncheon.
He said Dayton's budget plan will cover a big chunk ($38 million) out of the $48 million DOC deficit that caused early retirements and did not keep pace with (wage) step increases in negotiated contracts.
Solheid said the budget will allow keeping prisons open and maintaining current government services. He added that Minnesota is more prudent than many other states in that it spends just two percent of its budget on probation services.
"We've got aging facilities, 116,000 people on probation and 90,000 in prisons," Solheid added. "We provide prison chemical dependency programs, but only for about one-third of the people that need it."
He said by and large, Minnesota is a safe place to be. Guns, guns, and guns are the big legislative concern right now, but corrections is playing a part.
"We're monitoring sentence length and offender housing issues in particular," Solheid said.
He began working for the DOC as a supervisor, then a manager and now manages the Community Services Division and 400 DOC agents.
"I still like coming to work in the morning, so I'm still there," Solheid said.
He promoted the Minnesota Choice web site (www.minnesotachoice.com) that allows crime victims that register on the site to gain access to tools and features that can help them through the criminal justice process.
Web site features include offender searches, registration for notification of custody status, release, transfer and more, access resource information and request information about victim-initiated restorative justice opportunities.
Other website resources are safety planning, legal rights, forms and publications, terms and definitions and more. For more information, call 651-361-7200.
"We (DOC) are the backstop of corrections," Solheid said. "We keep people from going to prisons, which are close to capacity in Minnesota."
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.