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2023 Legislative Session DOC Impact Brief

Numerous pieces of legislation passed during the 2023 legislative session that will impact Minnesotans, including corrections-involved individuals, their families, and our communities. This fact sheet includes brief summaries of several of the major statutory changes.

Minnesota Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act (MRRA)

What: The MRRA is a new approach to Minnesota’s sentencing that allows people committed to the Department of Corrections (DOC) the opportunity to earn early release from prison and supervision abatement (meaning an end to active supervision) by successfully completing goals identified in their Individualized Rehabilitation Plan. If a person completes the requirements of their plan and remains discipline free, they may earn credits towards early release after serving 50% of their sentence.

Who: Until the policy is further developed, we are unable to tell people if they qualify. By law, individuals serving life sentences or given an indeterminate sentence, such as life without parole, are not eligible for early release under the MRRA.

When: Though the MRRA passed, it will take around 18-24 months to develop all necessary policies and procedures to have the MRRA completely up and running. There will not be any releases until 2025 when all procedures and structures have been put in place. Current and past involvement in programming will be considered once the MRRA is fully implemented.

Free Phone Calls

What: The state will provide free phone calls for incarcerated people in Minnesota state prisons. The Commissioner of Corrections will develop a written policy for how and when phone calls will be available. Calls will be limited in length to allow phone usage for all who wish to connect via phone, however the number of calls an individual can make will not be limited.

Who: Individuals incarcerated in Minnesota state prisons and juvenile facilities.

When: Phone calls to and from state prison will be free beginning on July 1, 2023.

Supervised Release Board

What: Currently, the Commissioner of Corrections is the sole authority for parole reviews for individuals serving life sentences. Recently passed legislation creates a board made up of five people to conduct these reviews. The elements of the review itself will not change, only the number of individuals who will be making parole decisions.

Who: Individuals sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

When: The law anticipates a transition period of 12 months to establish the board and begin considering parole decisions. The Commissioner will continue to make these decisions in the interim, and the DOC will support the implementation of this reform. Until then, the current life review process is still in effect. This will not impact those already scheduled reviews for 2023.

Sentence Review for Juveniles Certified as Adults with Life or Long Sentences

What: This year, lawmakers formally repealed statute regarding life sentences without parole for juveniles. Parole and supervised release review is now possible after 15 or more years of incarceration for individuals who were convicted of crimes committed as juveniles and certified as adults with life and lengthy sentences. For these cases, the five-member supervised release board will include two experts on juvenile crime to make decisions on parole.

Who: Any person certified as an adult serving one or more life sentences or determinate sentences with minimum terms of imprisonment of more than 15 years for crimes committed when they were under 18 years old.

When: The law will go into effect July 1, 2023. Eligible cases will be reviewed by the Commissioner until the Supervised Release Board is established on July 1, 2024.

Clemency Process

What: The legislation makes changes to the Minnesota Board of Pardons, made up of the Governor, Attorney General, and Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. A unanimous vote from the board will no longer be required for people applying for a pardon, commutation, or reprieve. Instead, two out of the three board members must approve, with the Governor voting in the majority. It also establishes a commission of nine staff members to review applications and advise the board.

Who: Individuals who apply for a pardon, commutation, or reprieve after criminal conviction.

When: The new commission will not be operational until July 1, 2024, but the DOC will continue to support the pardon board until then. The unanimous voting change is in place immediately.

Family Support Unit

What: The DOC has received funds to create a unit to support connections with family members of individuals who are incarcerated within all state prisons. The unit will focus on supporting meaningful connections between individuals, their children, and their entire families, including partnering with community members and organizations on programs such as parenting education and relationship building.

Who: Incarcerated individuals, particularly parents.

When: The unit will be built out and programs implemented over the coming year.

Restore the Vote

What: Minnesotans on parole, probation, or supervised release due to a felony conviction have been restored the right to vote upon leaving incarceration. Previously, Minnesota law only restored voting rights after the completion of a person’s entire sentence. Now, the right is restored immediately after release from incarceration, assuming other eligibility criteria are met, such as citizenship, age, and other requirements.

Who: Individuals with a felony conviction upon release from prison, including work release.

When: The law is currently in effect. Applications to register to vote are provided to every person releasing from state prison facilities.


What: Minnesota has become the 23rd state to legalize adult-use marijuana. A key part of this law is how it will impact people with marijuana-related records whose crimes are no longer considered crimes. The process is called expungement – or sealing of records. Expunged records are not destroyed, but they are removed from the public view and will not appear on background checks. Most marijuana possession misdemeanors will automatically be expunged, as long as the crime was nonviolent and there are fingerprints associated with the record. Felony marijuana crimes will not be automatically expunged. A new Cannabis Expungement Board will review records and determine eligibility for expungement or resentencing.

Who: Individuals with nonviolent marijuana possession convictions, including petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, and felonies may have their records expunged.

Individuals who are incarcerated continue to be prohibited from consuming cannabis. Restrictions on cannabis use for those on supervised release continue to be enforceable as conditions of release. However, if an individual is on the state medical cannabis registry, they may use medical cannabis to treat a medical condition while on supervision.

When: Beginning August 1, 2023, adult-use cannabis will be legal for individuals 21 and older to possess and use certain amounts (up to two pounds of flower at home, two ounces of flower in public, 8 grams of concentrate, and 800 milligrams of edibles) of marijuana and cannabis products in Minnesota. Use of cannabis will continue to be prohibited inside correctional facilities. Automatic expungement of misdemeanor possession offenses will begin August 1, 2023. The Cannabis Expungement Board will be created during the fall of 2023 in order to begin to review felony possession offenses and consider them for expungement or resentencing sometime in 2024.

Felony Murder Resentencing

What: This new law limits cases in which people can be convicted of felony murder but were not an active participant or knew an individual would be killed – such as a person unknowingly riding in what turns out to be a getaway car. The law is retroactive, so individuals currently serving these felony murder sentences can petition to have their sentences reduced or erased, and those who have served their time could have their convictions cleared from their record.

Who: A person convicted of felony murder who did not cause the death of a human, did not intentionally aid or conspire with another person to cause the death, and did not act without care for human life may petition for sentence reduction.

When: The law goes into effect August 1, 2023. The Commissioner of Corrections will notify individuals who qualify before December 1, 2023.

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