Under the headline “Other voices”

Under the headline “Other voices” yesterday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial page featured a piece on criminals living in the Twin Cities. The Strib introduces the piece as follows: “Last Friday the Minnesota Department of Corrections sponsored a workshop at the Minneapolis Urban League entitled ‘Partnership with Purpose: Breaking the Ice of Recidivism.’ Among issues addressed were troubles ex-inmates encounter upon leaving prison — as well as Minnesota’s habit of incarcerating people of color at rates far exceeding their representation in the population.”
The Strib refers to the disproportionate incarceration of “people of color” as “Minnesota’s habit,” striking a theme it has reiterated relentlessly over the past ten years. Minnesota actually has the lowest incarceration rate of any state in the country; in order to be sentenced to prison, an offender must have committed one or more extremely serious offenses. The problem reflected in the Strib’s weird formulation is the racially disparate crime rates of those living in Minnesota.
The piece is obviously intended to generate sympathy for the downtrodden black offenders (in hard copy the piece ran with photos of the quoted individuals; they were all black) in our midst, but the truly interesting thing about them is that four of the five of them are from out of state and moved to Minnesota following their incarceration in Michigan, Illinois, and two unidentified states, respectively. I can’t ascertain from the text if the one remaining speaker committed all of her numerous offenses in Minnesota; it may well be that she did. But the piece does not even illustrate the false point the Strib intended to make. Rather, it unintentionally illustrates another point, one that has the virtue of being true: Minnesota is a magnet for current and former offenders of color. We know why that is, but it’s not a story the Star Tribune has ever had any interest in reporting.

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