MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A push to lower sentences for felony convictions in Minnesota is getting push back from State Republican lawmakers.

The recent surge in violent crime has some lawmakers wanting the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission to reconsider its proposal.

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The Sentencing Guideline Commission was designed to bring uniformity to sentencing across the state. The commissioners are experts in their field and appointed to serve.

The commission’s latest proposal is drawing strong emotions from both those in favor and against it.

“We’ve seen a real spike in violent crime, much of that crime we’ve seen has been committed by folks who are on probation, who had an early release from prison or were given probation in lieu of going to prison, and now they are out committing violent crimes. This is not a hypothetical problem right now,” said State Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch).

“A lot of these folks are folks suffering from chemical dependency,” said State Rep. Jamie Long (D-Minneapolis). “They really need treatment, they don’t need prison, and so I think we should be looking to the professionals on the Sentencing Guidelines Commission who are trying to come up with a fair process in how we are sentencing people in Minnesota.”

Sentencing guidelines work on a point system. Offenders get points for prior felonies, misdemeanors and if they were on probation when the crime was committed. The more points, the longer the sentence.

The commission’s proposal gets rid of points if the crime was committed while on probation.

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“We are talking about repeat offenders and reducing those sentences, and that is absolutely not the right thing to do,” Brindley said.

“Their job is to make sentencing more fair, and they are just looking at a system for whether we should punish people who are on probation or parole when they committed a crime more than people who weren’t,” Long said.

While some say changing the guidelines keeps the most egregious offenders on the street, others say the exact opposite.

“The data shows that the majority of individuals who are getting these extra points — because they are on probation or parole — are low-level drug offenders, low-level property crime,” Long said. “Those are the people we are talking about most.”

The commission was designed by lawmakers to keep decisions like this out of politics.

The public hearing to discuss the potential changes takes place Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Minnesota State Capitol Building.

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Reg Chapman