Molly Bruner

Molly Bruner

In 2002, the state of Minnesota contributed $1.27 million to Scott County to fund community supervision. That same year, $1.5 million in local levies was spent to fund the adult probation and supervised release program.

Fast forward 20 years, and the state allocation has gone up $100,000 per year, for a total of $1.38 million, while local levy dollars contributed climbed to $2.94 million.

Scott County Commissioners have made changing the funding formula for the Community Corrections Act a top legislative priority going into the 2023 legislative session.

“They need to fix this formula,” Scott County Community Corrections Director Molly Bruner said.

Bruner said when local counties took over community corrections, the expectation was for the state to allocate 50% of the costs associated with supervising adults on felony probation or supervised release.

“That was the belief when people decided to do local control that was (what) would happen,” Bruner said.

However, in 2022, Scott County received significantly less than 50% from the state.

Bruner said that the main reason for the low percentage is the funding formula, which takes into account a county population, tax base, along with other factors.

With Scott County looking much different in 1996, when the formula was first created, and the population growth growing exponentially compared to some other counties, more local tax dollars have contributed to community supervision rather than the state.

“With population (growth), unfortunately comes an increase in crime,” Bruner said.

Staffing needs

Bruner said 200 probation and parole officers across the state participated in a study to determine how much time it takes to work with adults on felony probation and supervised release. The goal is to determine what staffing levels are needed.

“How much does it cost to do this work?” Bruner said.

The results of the time study are currently being compiled, Bruner said.

Bruner said that county budgets are also being looked at to help determine staffing needs and how much infrastructure it takes, including costs associated with IT, and to keep the lights on.

In 2008, eight people in Scott County were on supervised release, compared with 63 in 2022. The number of felony probation clients in 2022 was 1,667, up 310 clients from 2008. During that time period, the number of full time equivalent employees increased by 1.5, from 29.5 to 31.

With an increase in those on supervision and essentially the same staffing levels, Bruner said that prioritization is done.

“We’re trying to do a great job with a few people,” Bruner said.

Bruner explained that assessments are done to determine the risk that someone might commit another offense. From there, prioritization is done based on the client’s assessment needs.

Bruner said a lot of people on supervision are just receiving basic monitoring.

“We’re not meeting with them, we’re not helping them get to treatment, we’re not doing any case management because we can’t,” Bruner said.

More allocations neededIn addition to the funding formula being changed, Bruner said more funding needs to be allocated towards community corrections.

Bruner explained that every year, an allocation of funds is divided based on the funding formula to counties and the state Department of Corrections.

Based on research presented to the county board, Minnesota currently allocates 2.5% of the general budget towards corrections, the lowest percentage in the country. The average is 6.5%.

Bruner is hopeful that more funding will mean better results.

“We value probation, we value keeping people in the community. We think it works better than prison for most people... but then we also need to be able to do it well,” Bruner said.