During a legislative session on the Minnesota House floor on Thursday, April 25, 2019, related to the legislature’s omnibus health and human services finance bill, HF 2414, Rep. Hodan Hassan (D-62A, Minneapolis) made an eyepopping claim that “twenty-five percent of the US population are locked up” [in jails or prisons].
Hassan’s claim was made amid debate over an amendment to the omnibus bill, authored by Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-30A, Elk River). Zerwas’ amendment, A99, was aimed at stemming fraud within Minnesota’s child care provider subsidy program by requiring that certain “large scale” childcare centers provide proof of surety bond coverage in the amount of up to $250,000. Requiring the bonds from certain providers would help “recover potential losses” to the state in the event of any future fraud by those specified program participants, a safeguard which does not currently exist within the program.
Rep. Hassan made the “twenty-five percent” incarceration remark as part of an invective opposing the A99 amendment, during which she appeared to denounce comments by the amendment author and other representatives as “fearmongering, racist, Islamaphobic tactics to shame the Somali community” over reported fraud within the childcare provider program. And through her citation of the “twenty-five percent” incarceration statistic, Rep. Hassan insinuated that everybody is “related to somebody” who has “committed a crime.”
(Note: The Pioneer Press in March detailed findings within the Legislative Auditors report which contained the claim that fraud within Minnesota’s child care system is “pervasive” and that investigators are “unable to make a dent in the problem.”)
The United States has a population of roughly 327 million people (Feb. 2018). Twenty-five percent of that number would be nearly 82 million people.
CNN reported just this month that according to a 2018 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), only 2.2 million adults were held in America’s prisons and jails at the end of 2016. That translates to roughly .7 (seven tenths) of one percent of the US population – not twenty-five percent.
Based on the same BJS report, Vox last year reported that the US prison population fell for the third year in a row to 1.6 million in 2016.
Specific to Minnesota, the Star tribune in December reported that Minnesota “has made a deliberate choice to send fewer criminals to prison than most states,” resulting in less time in prison for Minnesota felons whether their crime was robbery, aggravated assault or even rape.
Since making her remarks on Thursday, internet clips of Rep. Hassan’s comments have been widely shared around camps from both sides of the aisle, yet neither Rep. Hassan nor anyone from her party has stepped forward to make a correction to the false claim, nor has any Minnesota media appeared to have called out the flagrant assertion.
Zerwas’ A99 amendment was ultimately rejected by a vote of 55-73 in a floor vote.
The omnibus health and human services finance bill passed in the House with a vote of 74-55 on Thursday (without the A99 amendment). The bill was then passed on to the Minnesota Senate for consideration.
Rep. Hassan’s district spans the area of Minneapolis south of I94 to roughly Lake St, on both sides of the 35W corridor, and from Lyndale Avenue on the west to roughly Hwy. 55 (Hiawatha Ave.) on the east. The district includes the Stevens Square, Ventura Village, Whittier, Phillips and Midtown Phillips neighborhoods.
Minnesota Crime Watch & Information offers citizen-powered crime, public safety and livability news, information and commentary
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