Mitchell Hamline’s Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners (LAMP) Clinic, along with the ACLU of Minnesota and the Clemency Clinic at the University of Minnesota Law School, obtained an order from a Ramsey County judge last week that will prevent, for now, the reincarceration of 18 people.
The 18 were among 158 who had won conditional medical release from the Minnesota Department of Corrections during the pandemic because they were particularly susceptible to suffering severe consequences if they were to catch COVID. The department notified the formerly incarcerated persons that they must return to prison by August 15.
The three organizations sued to stop the reincarceration, arguing the 18 people had a right to a hearing to consider all factors in deciding whether they should return to prison. They sought and won from Judge Mark Ireland a temporary restraining order that prohibits the Corrections Department from returning anyone to prison until the lawsuit is resolved.
Since that order was issued, the Department of Corrections has agreed to provide each person an individualized determination as to whether they should return to prison.
“These individuals all deserve the right to these individualized determinations,” said Clinic Director Brad Colbert ’85. “I’m confident that, upon review, the Department of Corrections will not force these folks back to prison.”
Professor Colbert has run or helped run the LAMP Clinic for more than 30 years. In preparing this lawsuit, he brought Mitchell Hamline student Jackson Fate on board to help research how due process pertains to calling people back to prison once they’ve been granted some form of release. “It was very exciting to see something that I wrote included in a memo that ultimately contributed to these people not having to return to prison,” said Fate, who just began his third year of law school.
“It feels like the kind of real substantive work that I didn’t think I’d be involved in until I had been in practice for years.”
Judge blocks plan to return 18 people freed during pandemic to prison (Minneapolis Star Tribune)