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Michael Brodkorb

He writes about politics.

What I learned in prison...while visiting

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault (MCF-Faribault) a state prison. The prison in Faribault is now the largest state prison in Minnesota. Over 2,000 men serve out their sentences in the combined minimum and medium-secured facility. 

I visited the prison after being invited to an event focused on Restorative Justice. According to a fact sheet published by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, Restorative Justice "is an opportunity for those affected by a crime – the victim, offender and community – to repair the harm caused by the crime through participation in a restorative practice promoting healing." 

My total time in MCF-Faribault lasted an hour.

Members of the Restorative Justice Committee in Faribault - inmates - were donating $1,000 to Minnesotans for Safe Driving, an organization focused on helping "all victims of traffic crashes and educate 
the public to the dangers of drunk driving and distractive driving." I was invited by Minnesotans for Safe Driving's founder, Jon Cummings, to attend the event where a check would be presented by the inmates. 

Cummings had been to the prison before as the inmates had previously supported his organization. One of inmates had even made wooden easels for Cummings to use during his presentations about the dangers of drinking and driving. 

By design, walking into a prison is not a simple, relaxing process. Eventually, I was led into big room with high cement walls and plastic chairs. I sat with approximately 20 inmates, for almost 30 minutes, and I listened to them talk about why they believe in Restorative Justice. 

I was nervous, as this had been my first experience speaking with inmates in a prison. But after a few moments, I felt very comfortable as I learned from inmates why they spend their unlimited time and limited personal financial resources on Restorative Justice. 

The inmates who participate in the prison's Restorative Justice program do not receive a reduction in their prison sentences. The work of the inmates is all voluntary because the inmates believe so strongly in the program. Before the inmates can serve on the committee, they are required to take a class to learn about the principles of Restorative Justice.

Cummings was proud to receive a contribution and of the work done by the prison staff and inmates on Restorative Justice. "If the inmates did something bad, everyone would know. It's only fair people know about the good things they do," said Cummings.

After the event concluded, I walked around the room and spoke with each inmate. I felt very fortunate for being able to attend the event. I learned there is more going on in a prison than keeping people in cells. 

Picture source: Minnesota Department of Corrections

Lakeville police want to speak with Michelle MacDonald

It has been a volatile few weeks for Michelle MacDonald. Less than three weeks ago, MacDonald announced she had applied for a vacancy on the Minnesota Supreme Court, created by the upcoming retirement of Associate Justice Alan C. Page. 

Fast forward to yesterday, and the Lakeville police department said MacDonald is considered one of at least four persons of interest in the disappearance of two sisters from Lakeville. 

MacDonald is the attorney for Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, the mother of Samantha and Gianna Rucki, who both disappeared on April 19, 2013, when they ran away from their home in Lakeville.

Grazzini-Rucki denies knowing where her missing daughters are located or being involved with their disappearance. 

Dale Nathan told the Star Tribune that he was a passenger in a car driven by Grazzini-Rucki on the day Samantha and Gianna went missing. Nathan said the two sisters ran to the waiting car and he rode around for hours with Grazzini-Rucki and her daughters. Nathan said Grazzini-Rucki later dropped him off at a truck stop in Northfield and he was picked up by MIchael Rhedin, a Hennepin County corrections officer

Lakeville police want to speak with Grazzini-Rucki, Rhedin, Nathan, and MacDonald about the missing sisters, but have encountered resistance. 

Grazzini-Rucki told the Star Tribune a court order prohibts her from speaking with police about her missing daughters. In an interview last week MacDonald confirmed, as first reported by Brandon Stahl, that no court order prevents Grazzini-Rucki from speaking with police about her missing daughters.

Asked if MacDonald and Grazzini-Rucki would cooperate with Lakeville police in finding the two girls, MacDonald said "of course we would be helpful."

The Star Tribune reported yesterday Lakeville police have contacted MacDonald to speak with Grazzini-Rucki, but MacDonald's attorney Stephen Grigsby contacted Lakeville police and "provided little information."

Last evening, Grigsby said he did not know if MacDonad had spoken with police about the missing girls. Grigsby added he would advise MacDonald "not to say a word" to police since she now publicly been labeled as a person of interest in the disappearence of the missing Lakeville sisters. 

"The moment [police] say 'person of interest' they are esentially targeting a person for a criminal investigation," said Grigsby.  

For MacDonald, who was the 2014 Republican endorsed candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court, she continues to advocate for reforming the judicial system. MacDonald has traveled to Washington, D.C. and will not return to Minnesota until next week, according to a person who answered the phone at MacDonald's law firm. 

Over the next few days, MacDonald is schedule to appear at events in front of the White House and United States Supreme Court Building. Back in Minnesota, the Lakeville police department will be focused on justice, as they continue to search for Samantha and Gianna Rucki, both missing for over two years

Picture source: Star Tribune, Michelle MacDonald for Minnesota Supreme Court

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