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Closing the "Gap" Between Competency and Commitment in Minnesota: Ideas from National Standards and Practices in Other StatesJanuary 9, 2018
In Minnesota, a "gap" exists in the justice system for defendants with mental illness. Defendants in criminal cases are found incompetent to stand trial, yet do not meet the higher standard for civil commitment. Commitment is the only way to receive competency restoration treatment, so individuals who do not meet the standard are unable to resolve their criminal cases or to receive treatment. The Robina Institute conducted research see how other states address incompetency.
Rhode Island does not have a sentencing commission or statutory sentencing guidelines. The Rhode Island Superior Court, which has jurisdiction over felony crimes and sentences, uses sentencing benchmarks as well as general, statutory authority to sentence offenders to a specific term of imprisonment. Rhode Island has had conditional release since 1896, and the Parole Board has existed in some form since 1915. In 1993, the legislature passed an act that increased the number of board members from 6 to 7 and added a fulltime chairperson.
Alaska has had statutory sentencing guidelines in place since 1980, which have since been supplemented by appellate court decisions. Alaska briefly created a sentencing commission in 1990; it produced a final report in 1992 before its legislative mandate expired in 1993. Alaska felony defendants are sentenced to definite terms of imprisonment.Alaska's Constitution provides for a parole board; the statute that the current Board operates under was originallyenacted in 1985. Alaska law provides both discretionary parole for some inmates and mandatory parole for mostinmates serving a sentence of more than two years.
New Jersey does not have a sentencing commission or sentencing guidelines. There are four broad categories of felony crimes in the state, and judges have a great deal of discretion to select a sentence from within the range of years associated with each category. The New Jersey State Parole Board, in its current form, was authorized by the Parole Act of 1979, which repealed and replaced the Parole Act of 1948. Until that time, there were four separate paroling authorities that each had jurisdiction over different segments of the offender population.
Sentences in Vermont are indeterminate and have both a minimum and a maximum term imposed by the court. Vermont does not have sentencing guidelines or a sentencing commission. Vermont's incarcerated population tripled between 1990 and 2007; the state credits their 2007 Justice Reinvestment Act for reversing (or at least leveling off) this trend. Some form of conditional release has existed in Vermont since 1777 when the power to grant pardons was vested in the governor by the state constitution. In 1898, the legislature gave the Board of Prison Commissioners the power to grant conditional pardons formerly held only by the governor; three years later, the law was declared unconstitutional. It appears that the governor held the power to grant conditional release until 1971, when the Vermont Parole Board was established.
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