The Hennepin county DFL endorsing convention is speeding our way, May 19, 2018. Up on the ballot? Criminal justice reform in the form of two progressive candidates challenging two extremely entrenched ones.
The Sheriff's race and the County Attorney race may not be the headline-grabbers, but they are arguably two of the most impactful races on the ticket for anyone who comes into contact with the criminal justice system – a system that putters along in a deep groove of bias as it has for the last decade plus under both sheriff Stanek and Mike Freeman. While Stanek is a known Trumper and ICE collaborator (more on the sheriff's race here), Freeman is quieter, but also has his critics. His handling of the Jamar Clark case (in which he skipped the grand jury and decided against charging the officers who killed Clark) sparked weekly "Freeman Friday" protests. And this article names him one of three of "America's worst Democratic prosecutors."
Even assuming that this is purely coincidental, it is safe to say the Mike Freeman is presiding over a justice system that is broken at best, and deeply unjust at worst. He has held the spot for a total of two decades (first from 1991-1999 then again from 2007 - present, throwing a stint in the senate and a failed run for the governorship in between). We all know what happens when you do the exact same thing; you get the same results. Hennepin County is arguably the home of the most progressive folks in the state. Our County Attorney should be blazing new trials in criminal justice reform. In raising Mark's candidacy, I've heard a common rebuttal: No experience. Not only is this untrue, but it raises the question of whether someone who is deeply entrenched in the system is really the person best suited to change it. The defensive forces around Mike are mighty – they might also be a bit telling that this is a real tipping point for change.
Mark Haase went to law school with the express purpose of changing criminal justice. He started an Amnesty International chapter there, and one of his early jobs was at the Ramsey County Attorney's office (yes, he does have sentencing experience). After a stint as a private family law attorney, he returned to his criminal justice roots. He is someone that is not only personally committed to substantive change, he's someone who has made it happen (there's a big difference!). A few accomplishment highlights:
Co-founded the Second Chance Coalition for the rehabilitation of people with criminal justice issues
Led bipartisan efforts that successfully reformed drug sentencing and juvenile records laws to include second chance provisions
Chief lobbyist on Ban the Box, historically passing it for all public employees, then a few years later for all private employees
Worked for years at the Council on Crime and Justice where he became one of our State’s leading experts on the consequences of criminal records, and managed victim services programs and programs for people in and leaving prison
Has continually worked as an independent lobbyist towards restoring voting rights for former offenders and led the Restore the Vote Coalition
Represented the State in felony sentencing hearings where he learned what it means to send someone to prison, or offer an alternative
Managed programs for crime victims
He states on his website, "The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office should be leading the way in implementing solutions to the inequities in our justice system, not lagging behind."
I hope he gets the chance to show that leadership.
Strib article about Mark Haase. Mark's website.
Mark Haase says we need real change in the Hennepin County justice system.
UPDATE: On May 19th at the Hennepin County DFL convention, both David Hutchinson and Mark Haase received the DFL endorsement. Both campaigns are accepting donations and volunteers (host a meet-and-greet, host a lawn sign, etc.) to get the word out for the election in November. Because they will not have a "D" next to their name on the ballot (these are technically non-partisan races) education about these candidates is especially important. Please amplify via social media, word of mouth, and however you can!
To donate or volunteer:
Contact Mark Haase's campaign
Contact Dave Hutchinson's campaign