Prison Radio
Izell Robinson

I am Izell Robinson, Minnesota inmate number 210006, an innocent man confined within the quadrilaterals of systemic injustice, fighting to be heard and affect positive change. Yet to accomplish success, I need you to listeners to hear me and act. I’m only asking if I can be heard and count on you to act.

As a prisoner, I am ecstatic to announce my single Gnik “Take a Chance With Me” under my entertainment moniker Gnik is now streaming on the Spotify music platform. Please go to Spotify and find me, um, and listen and share my song, “Take a Chance With Me.” Remember, it’s Gnik, or just “King” spelled backwards. Thanks.

Today I want to share an opinion piece called “Blind Consequences: The Unjust Effects of Conditional Release” that I recently wrote.

American states have recently seen a push in efforts to eliminate systemic injustice and revise criminal justice. Recently, here in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Corrections has introduced a bill called MRRA, Minnesota Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act. The MRRA bill appears to be an idea to begin an incentive program where inmates can possibly get early release based on different positive programs successfully participated in or completed while confined or while on parole outside of confinement.

Yes, this initiative appears to be a good start at the revision of criminal justice in Minnesota. However, that is only on the surface. A concern is the incentive program will not be open to all inmates, particularly those deemed to have committed a violent crime. Change like this should be inclusive of all and not limited to systemic opinions of who should be eligible for an opportunity for change—especially if corrections and the premise of this deal is truly about rehabilitation.

Now, my main focus is MRRA’s exclusion being a blind consequence similar to the unjust effects of conditional release—which will continue to restrict opportunities from inmates labeled as sex offenders. Often when citizens on outside hear the word “sex offenders” combined with “sex offenders being released into community,” a level of hysteria arises.

However, that hysteria is unwarranted here in Minnesota where about 80% of convicted sex offender are mandated to participate in and complete sex offender treatment while confined or on parole. The treatment programs focus on accepting accountability, recognition of harm, ripple effect, recognizing problematic thinking and replacing it with healthy alternatives of thought and action, making amends and behavior change, building healthy supportive networks, and challenging oneself to be a law-abiding productive part of one’s community through employment and empathetic service. Plus, research has held that sex offender to participate in or complete a treatment program while confined have a 10% chance of returning to prison after release for a new sex offense and a 25% chance of returning on a non-sex offense-related crime or a violation.

Due to what I’ve highlighted, I don’t think inmates with sex crimes should be denied access to the MRRA incentive program in Minnesota if they have proven they’re successfully participating in or have completed sex offender treatment and other programs. More importantly, I think in order for MRRA to be practical, fair, and effective, Minnesota legislators must get rid of conditional release and make the incentive eligibility available to all offenders.

The conditional release is a blind consequence placed only on sex offenders and DWI offenders for a 10 years or lifetime period. It is a consequence that isn’t listed and the maximum time an offender can be sentenced to based off felony points in the Minnesota sentencing guidelines. An offender is usually sentenced to their allowed to time to serve under the Minnesota sentencing guidelines, then this extra 10 years or lifetime conditional release is added, which amounts to an extended parole after an offender’s original sentence has been completed. In some cases, this becomes an actual life sentence that an offender was covertly sentenced to.

However, in fairness and transparency, if Minnesota wanted to sentence an offender to life, they should have met the sentencing guidelines to do that and not implemented the secretive enhancement. This enhancement has unfairly led to the reincarceration of offenders at higher rates based on technical violations—which are often the make-up of rules that aren’t actual crimes or criminal behavior.

These offenders have been led- been held in prison for several years under the conditional release after completing their sentencing guidelines’ maximum for violations like having a smartphone without the agent’s permission or entering an establishment that serves alcohol. Although they’re 21 years or older, didn’t buy alcohol, and in fact, alcohol isn’t illegal. Yes, these behaviors not- may not be healthy or positively productive decision-making, but it shouldn’t warrant guys being criminalized or confined as a result.

Beyond that, conditional release places barriers on voting rights, government-subsidized housing, and employment, further suppressing true citizenship and community rehabilitation.

Conditional release is an injustice and real problem in Minnesota that needs to be exposed and addressed, so I encourage you, the listener, to visit and comment about this conditional release problem and MMRA.

Thank you for your time, and I hope that you’ve gained something from the information I’ve provided and that we can count on your support in this continuous struggle to fight against criminal justice reform.

Once again, you can reach me through the Jpay app, just type in ID number 210006 and “Minnesota” for state. Um, and thanks Prison Radio for this much-needed platform and linking prisoners with their communities in a healthy way to foster needed dialogue and support.

These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.