MNSCC’s Candidates Questionnaire is here to help you!

Every seat in the state’s legislature is up for election this November and the MNSCC is honored to help Minnesotans to connect with their legislators on second chance issues because we want you to use your voice and vote informed.

How It Works

We invited every candidate to answer a brief questionnaire about second chance issues so that you can get to know them better and these were their responses!  

Candidates Commitment to the Second Chance Community

We asked all the candidates from various districts the following questions and these were their answers. 

Candidates Surveyed

Reducing Recidivism

Will you support legislation that advances research-based solutions to reducing recidivism, including through reducing barriers to housing, employment, and/or civic engagement for formerly incarcerated people?

Fines and Fees

Do you support the American Bar Association’s position that criminal and traffic fines and fees should not exceed an individual’s ability to pay, and should be reduced or waived for people for whom payment could cause a substantial hardship?

Reducing Youth Incarceration

Will you support legislation that invests in community-based alternatives to youth incarceration?

Candidates Support of Second Chance Legislation

We asked all the candidates, if elected or re-elected, how they would support second chance legislation in the future.
If elected, I would support research based legislation that reduce recidivism and crime. As a legislator, I will intentionally engage with communities and organizations to fully understand the issues and potential solutions. Finally, supporting proactive youth interventions will lead to healthier kids, adults, and communities.
Amanda Hemmingsen-Jaeger
MN House, District 47A
As a first-time candidate, I have not had the opportunity to support Second Chance legislation in the past. That said, I believe that everyone is a victim of the broken "justice" system in our country, in one way or another and I will support any legislation that ends that victimization. Penalties for severe crimes should be severe, however, too often, victimless crimes are prosecuted at a much further extent than even severe criminal acts, which forces a person into the revolving door that is our current criminal justice system.
Ashley Klingbeil
Senate District 12
I will co-sponsor any legislation that helps bring people into the mainstream productive lifestyle. I will also promote funding for youth alternative to incarceration. I will be looking at laws that prevent housing discrimination. I will to create training and apprenticeships for recently released prisoners.
A. John Peters
Senate SD 5
As a first-time legislative candidate, I am dedicated to common-sense legislation that improves the lives of all Minnesotans. Criminal history continues to be a barrier for housing and employment, resulting in recidivism as the only means for survival. From a policy perspective, legislators must be transparent with intentions and willing to reevaluate historical practices which fail to meet the original intent. One example is crime-free housing, which in essence is offender-free housing with limited impact on eliminating crime
Andrea robinson
House 13a
I invite constituents to review my legislative record over the last 20 years in the MN Senate in the area of restoring the vote to felons who have served their sentences in prison or on probation. We need more initiatives to safely re-integrate convicted felons who have served their sentences while making sure their re-integration is closely supported.
Senator Ann Rest
43 District
It's my first time running, therefore there's no voting record of me. I truly believe that people should get a 2nd chance in life after they corrected themselves and willing to strive in the right direction. We should encourage companies to hire people who were incarcerated in the past and have made significant efforts to prove to the society that they have changed and will live their lives in a new direction.
Allen Shen
40B House
It is unjust to continue to punish the guilty beyond the penalties placed upon them by the court. Innocent until proven guilty is an important concept not just before the verdict, but after it. We cannot expect those found guilty of crimes to pay a lifetime worth of penalties, both explicit and implicit, while also being able to become strong members of our society.
Andy Smith
Everybody deserves a second chance, especially in our American democracy. We are a people defined by opportunity, afterall. In the Minnesota legislature, we have a long way to go to ensure that every Minnesotan has access to the most basic opportunities. We can and must pursue this goal through policy interventions and funding. In the past, I have voted and advocated to restore the vote so that every citizen has full citizenship rights. But I have also worked to secure funding for Youth Intervention Programs like 180 Degrees and supporting the mental health bill that provided resources to stop our barbaric competency restoration practices. I believe we have a moral and practical obligation to revisit criminal justice policies, but we must also support programs that help people not enter the criminal justice system in the first place and those that enable people new futures when they leave it.
Aric Putnam
I believe that people are more than just the worst thing they've done. I will vote to advance Second Chance legislation and fight for every American's right to decency and prosperity.
Brendan Van Alstyne
As a first-time candidate and former police officer, I am eager to have deep discussions at our State Capitol about ensuring our criminal justice system is fair, equitable, and effective. I am a firm believer in our 6th Amendment Right to fair trial. Unfortunately, our system favors those with wealth at an alarming rate. Accountability exists regardless of income. At the same time, we need to acknowledge the realities of life after incarceration and set people up for a successful future free of crime. A comprehensive approach to criminal justice will have better results. Investing in proven crime-prevention strategies, like community engagement programs for youth, is a way to reduce crime long-term from the beginning. Ensuring access to basic needs like food and shelter limits the need for those in poverty to rely on crime to survive. Treatment for substance use disorders and mental health are another crucial piece of curbing crime. Education and skill-building during incarceration are proven to reduce recidivism. And finally, ensuring stable housing and employment for those with completed sentences reinforces the idea that we believe in people's ability to turn away from crime and lead a successful, fulfilling life. I support Second Chance legislation because it creates a realistic, productive path for those involved in the criminal justice system and ultimately supports safer streets and a stronger economy.
Brion Curran
Before retirement, I was the executive director of a youth-serving nonprofit that supported youth interventions. Our programs supported youth through out of school time programs and promoted family and community involvement which helped to build assets as a significant way to deter criminal behaviors.
Carolyn Treadway
If elected, this will be my first term, so I have no voting record on this topic. However, I have worked in the Juvenile Court system and supported families in getting appropriate court orders for children arrested for domestic assault, many of them needing mental health care. I have also donated to the Bail Project.
Chris Brazelton
SD29 - Senate
I have supported legislation from the Second Chance Coalition in the past. In fact, as a Senate Staffer, I helped with Ban the Box legislation. As a House member, I supported bills that reduced traffic fines and fees in accordance to ability to pay. I strongly support investing in community-based alternatives to youth incarceration. I also have supported bills for felon restoration when it comes to voting rights. Thank you to your coalition and all you do!
Representative Cheryl Youakim
For six years I helped run programs that provided housing and support for people coming out of jails, prisons and immigration detention centers. Working alongside folks as they navigated the deeply challenging process of reentry, I learned the ways in which we’ve doubly stacked the deck against them--erecting barrier after barrier. As a Senator, I will work to include formerly incarcerated people in the policy-making process and will hold what I know of their experiences close as I assess new pieces of legislation.
Dan Wilson
Senate District 26
The past few years have made it clearer than ever that we need to reform our entire justice system away from ideas of punishment and control and into a place of rehabilitation and understanding. Trying to "get tough on crime" has led to decades of failed policies, failed initiatives, and ballooning bank accounts for the richest and most ghoulish among us. It's time to start thinking about ways to help people and not profits.
Eric M. Leitzen
Minnesota Senate 26
I support Minnesota Second Chance Coalition and their advocacy for effective, just, and responsible laws, policies, and practices to ensure that those who have been involved in the criminal legal system. It is imperative that we provide opportunities for meaningful second chances that create paths to achieve self-sufficiency and the opportunity to contribute to their communities to their full potential, and system-involved youth are not limited in their ability to become successful adults.
Jackie Craig
Senate District 57
Decriminalize victimless crimes to end prosecution of our neighbors for personal choices. The best second chance is a first chance, so ending prosecution for these crimes can slow or stop the state's attempt to fill prisons. Caring for our neighbors means respecting their individual decisions, not sending them to prison when we disagree. Incarceration should be reserved for violent offenders, with fines only for property crime to make owners whole. Once the sentence or fine is complete, there should be no discrimination for those who completed their term. We should be focused on making individuals, families, and communities whole, not persecution, retribution, or sending a message of deterrence.
Jeremy Peichel
Minnesota Senate 66
I believe in common sense measures to reduce recidivism as proven by numerous studies abroad. Over-criminalization of low level offenses and addiction leads to systemic criminalization of far too many who made a singular mistake. The benefits in treating first offenders and substance abusers with dignity are countless. If elected, I will support measures that reduce unnecessary incarceration and abuse of power in our criminal justice system.
Jeremy Vinar
I was taught forgiveness as a child in church. We should not be holding past misdeeds against people who are trying to better themselves and their families. Forgiveness and acceptance is the greatest gift we can give to one another and should be praised. I will work with my fellow members of the legislature to make sure that no one will be without a second chance.
Michael Heidelberger
This is my first time running for office, but I have supported and pushed for many policy changes previously, which would help ensure that folks in the reentry community transition back home easier. For example, I advocated for banning the box on a federal level, to mitigate discrimination in the employment process against individuals with conviciton histories. I have also advocated for expanding Pell Grants to incarcerated students. Further we have to work together to actively remove barriers to housing for folks who have conviction histories. If we as a community want to work against recidivism, it’s important that we ensure individuals who were formerly incarcerated have stable housing when they transition back into society.
Liz Lee
Yes! Supporting formerly incarcerated Minnesotans integrate back into the community is a policy priority for me. I've attended Second Chance events, and also am supportive of the Legal Rights Center's End Youth Prisons efforts. I've been working on transformative juvenile restorative justice legislation, and was the chief author of the successful Veterans Restorative Justice Act. In the interim, I have been meeting with counties and individuals to brainstorm on other ways that I can introduce legislation to support professional development and job supports for formerly incarcerated individuals. Thanks for your important work!
Representative Sandra Feist
House Seat in 39B
I have not had the opportunity to support this legislation but will do so if elected.
Sally Boos
MN House 6B
I've long supported the work of the Second Chance Coalition and legislation that promotes dignity, healing, and accountability in the criminal legal system. These issues are particularly important to me because of my non-legislative role as a prosecutor, with a particular focus on domestic violence and sexual exploitation. I took on this role because I wanted to help vulnerable people. In the course of this work, I’ve become ever more aware of the truism that it is “hurt people” who hurt people. And I’ve become ever more aware of the differential impact of the criminal legal system on communities – especially communities of color – and the ways that policies and practices in that system can make everyone less safe. I continue to feel a particular responsibility to lead in working to change that.
Representative Dave Pinto
Supporting rehabilitation-based justice rather than pure retribution-based justice will go further toward reducing crime and recidivism. Far too often, we have a system it seems almost designed to go out of its way to put as much suffering to people already struggling and making bad choices in life. Having an end game with no good options just pushes people into doubling down on what they were doing in the first place. We need to offer alternatives that will leave people with life skills that will help them stay away from crime again when they get out of their sentence. We need to make sure that any kid that goes into the system comes out with the same chances that anyone else would have had. People cant be forgotten about.
James Sceville
MN House 1A
Yes, and have successfully carried legislation that addresses these issues (fines & fees reform). I am also fired up to address bail reform next legislative session and expand upon our work related to parents who are incarcerated.
Representative Jamie Becker-Finn
40B District
Yes, I have supported the legislation and will continue to do so
Senator Jerry Newton
House 35B
While I have always been supportive of Second Chance legislation, this is my first time running for office and first time publicly discussing that stance. The purpose of our criminal justice system can and should be rehabilitative rather than purely punitive. Reducing recidivism should be the priority of our justice system. I support research-based efforts to help formerly incarcerated people reengage in their communities because we know that helps reduce recidivism. They’ve served their time and, ideally, are ready to become full-fledged, tax-paying, working, participating members of society. I support reinstating the right to vote to formerly incarcerated people. I’m a big believer in the curative effects of participating in the democratic process and want to ensure every person who’s served their time has that right. I also support efforts to reduce fines and fees for low level offenses that tend to trap people in cycles of debt and poverty, rather than discouraging that behavior. An incredibly important part of Second Chance legislation, too, is our youth. As an educator and a dad, I refuse to believe that any kid is beyond helping. I support ending juvenile life without parole, a deeply cruel and inhumane practice. I support efforts to redirect youth into community service and away from incarceration. I support ending public hearings and records for youth under the age of 18 and raising juvenile court jurisdiction from 10 years old to 13 years old. If elected, I pledge to fight for fairness in our criminal justice system.
John Hest
MN House, 4B
I have supported legislation to restore the right to vote by voting in the Minnesota Senate for this bill. I will continue to support efforts to restore the vote. I have also worked with the Minnesota Asset Building Coalition advocating for legislative changes that would reduce the ongoing impact of fines and fees. I believe it is detrimental to individuals' ability to maintain their work and family responsibilities when they have fines and fees that affect their ability to drive and are beyond their ability to pay them. We need to continue to find ways to remove unnecessary and unhelpful burdens on people.
Melissa H. Wiklund
State Senate District 51
I was a teacher for 36 years. For the past 16 years, I worked with incarcerated youth, youth on probation, and homeless youth. I am very committed to finding solutions to prevent repeat incarceration or homelessness. When I was a Senator from 2010-2012, I was an author of the Ban the Box bill, which was intended to help gain employment after incarceration. I am also the founder of Life Prep Academy, which was a school and dorm for homeless teens, and teens coming out of incarceration or probation.
Pam Wolf
Senate District 39
I've attended and spoken to my support at many Second Chance Town Halls. I've authored, co-authored & supported the Second Chance Agenda, including restoring felon voting rights and juvenile justice reform.
Sandy Pappas
I have supported Second Chance legislation like the Clean Slate Act in the past and continue to support legislation that reduces recidivism and improves outcomes for those returning home from incarceration. When someone commits a crime we need to be sure that justice is served, but it makes us no safer to create barriers to employment and housing once their time has been served.
Senator Steve Cwodzinski
I am an author on House File 0922. For the past several years I have helped lead a private sector company that has worked to break the recidivism cycle of the prison industrial complex. My efforts were even recognized in the 2019 Minnesota Cup at the Carlson School of Management where I was a Semifinalist. I have served on the Public Safety committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives for the past 2 years. I have listened to the ideas and legislation that have been presented. I have worked across the aisle to help craft well thought out bills that will better address the public safety needs of our state. I will continue to advocate for bills that will promote healing, repair, accountability, and belonging for individuals, families, and communities. I will look to the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition to help me understand the issues and how they will affect our state and my communities of Blaine and Lexington. Legislation is an act of compromise, and each stake holder brings the needs of their community to the table with the intention of doing what is best. That attitude of doing what is best makes up the central core of how I approach legislation. In a time of nearly endless acrimony amongst the various parties I seek a balance, a bipartisan approach to each problem. I can not pledge to support every bill, but I can promise to thoughtfully consider legislation that promotes good policy that will heal our communities.
Representative Donald Raleigh
We can do a lot to reduce recidivism. During my first term, I supported fully funding our public schools would help narrow the educational achievement gap. Addressing problems in economic opportunity, affordable healthcare, housing, and safety would improve disparities in health outcomes. Stronger enforcement of existing laws on financial practices would also help. I am confident that, for the common good, we can meet the challenge of addressing the barriers that those who have been part of the criminal justice system face.
Lindsey Port
Yes, I have during my time in the MN House since elected in 2020 and will continue to do so.
Liz Boldon
I am a first-time candidate for office, but my whole life has involved working with people getting a second chance: as a group home counselor, as a teacher at an adolescent chemical treatment center, and as the director of the Albert Lea Area Learning Center. Students would register at the ALC behind in credits, and I would help them to make a graduation plan. That involved discussions on what was getting in the way of school success - how to change things so they could get caught up and graduate. Some students graduated on schedule and some months late, but they graduated and were able to move on to new challenges. If elected, I would support the rights of returning citizens to vote as soon as they are released from incarceration. I would support limiting traffic and criminal fines fees to the person's ability to pay. I would support efforts to reduce barriers to housing and employment. I would work to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline. I would work to make sure everyone who needs chemical dependency programs, especially our youth, have access to them. I would seek to be an advocate for underserved adults and underserved youth.
Representative Mary Hinnenkamp
MN House 23A
I agree that there are too many barriers that further the penalties extracted on those who have already "paid their debt to society". Yes, we must require accountability for ones actions. At the same time, we strengthen individuals, families, and communities when we look at incarceration with an eye toward reintegration into society. We must do significantly better.
Mikki Murray
Senate District 66
I am thankful for the work of the Second Chance Coalition. My work in early childhood is all about prevention, and I believe strongly when someone makes mistakes, we need to help them move on from that mistake and live productive lives. In doing so, we not only help them, but we help families and our communities. Many people who are part of our criminal justice system have been incarcerated for mental health or chemical health issues. My husband was a chemical dependency counselor for many years, so I know the struggles of those who suffer from chemical dependency and their loved ones. People who have chemical dependency or mental health issues should be helped not criminalized. Two incredible organizations in Fergus Falls - Welcome House and Matthew House work to support people who have been incarcerated, and we need more programs like these that are supported by the Second Chance Coalition to fully support people in our communities. People make mistakes and need to be forgiven and helped to make better lives and to reach their full potential.
Nancy Jost
Supporting the rehabilitation of offenders upon release needs more investment and focus. Convicted felons are often denied support for housing, voting, and jobs. I support the actions of 2nd Chance Emerge mattress recycling efforts in Minneapolis. I have toured the site and have seen first-hand the starting jobs and support provided for their hires. Delivering a job in addition to counseling and self-improvement provides the basic services to assist people make a new start and create new opportunities. I believe in the work they are doing and hope to assist in furthering the mission by expanding mattress recycling in Minnesota with new legislation I am authoring in 2023. I will also make every effort to support Second Chance initiatives such as the expansion of their work in Duluth with the U of M for mattress and furniture recycling. I support the Clean Slate Act, the Mn Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Juvenile Justice Reforms. Recidivism decreases with every effort we make to create opportunities and engage people with guidance, counseling, individualized treatment and helping to meet the needs of people to create success. Reintegration that supports and grounds people with connection is an investment that will pay off in the future.
Robert Bierman
I would like to reduce the number of laws that result in incarceration. Our criminal justice system needs to start taking violent and theft crimes more seriously than non-violent crimes. I don't think the answer to every problem is spending more money, though. It turns out that the more the government tries to 'help,' the more problems increase. Sticking to the principles of not hurting anyone and not taking their stuff is how a community really heals. Taking the burdens of the state off of the community will allow citizens to cooperate without the government dictating who/when/where they can carry out their daily business.
TJ Hawthorne
MN House District 44B