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As a budget deficit forces state lawmakers to become more creative with proposals, Kubly looks at YM example

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GRANITE FALLS -- Facing the prospect of a massive budget deficit, state legislators have already been advised not to bring new spending proposals to St. Paul this January.

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"We've actually been asked not to bring legislation that will cost a nickel," Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, told the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday.

Kubly instead plans to offer legislation aimed at saving the state money by reversing the decades-long trend toward incarcerating ever larger number of offenders.

Kubly told the commissioners that he will be proposing a restorative justice program for non-violent adult offenders. It will be modeled after the program successfully being used in Yellow Medicine County for some juvenile offenders.

The program overseen by the Department of Corrections puts young offenders together with community members and their victims. Face-to-face meetings are held with the goal of correcting the harm done to the victim, and helping the offender take responsibility for his or her actions.

Kubly said he believes that the program could be appropriate for some adult offenders, such as in some types of property crimes. He said he would not support its use in violent crimes, and added that there are many offenders for whom incarceration is necessary.

The experience with the restorative justice program in Yellow Medicine County shows that it saves taxpayer dollars, he said. Many of the offenders would otherwise be required to participate in residential programs such as those offered at Prairie Lakes in Willmar, or some of the so-called "boot camps" offered elsewhere.

Kubly pointed out that it costs $38,000 a year for the state to incarcerate an adult offender in medium-security facilities.

The state's inmate population has grown from roughly 4,800 to 9,200 in the 12 years that he has served in the Legislature, he said.

Kubly and newly elected Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL- Murdock, met with the commissioners to discuss the upcoming legislative session and budget issues.

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