Local/state briefs

St. Cloud prison fair helps inmates plan for their release

ST. CLOUD (AP) — Some St. Cloud inmates recently met with community groups to begin planning for their future outside of prison.

The Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud held its release planning fair this week, the St. Cloud Times reported. It’s the 10th year that the prison has invited incarcerated men to connect with organizations that can offer support upon their release.

Roughly 70 organizations attended the fair, from job and housing programs such as Better Futures Minnesota and Crossing HOME, to support groups, including the National Alliance of Mental Illness and Alcoholics Anonymous.

“(The men are) amazed that all these people are there and are willing to help them,” said Jacqueline Richards, the prison’s transitions program coordinator. “A lot of them think that once they get out (of prison) there’s nobody there to help.”

Robert Lee has been incarcerated in St. Cloud for over four years. The 28-year-old earned his barber license this year after training at the prison.

Lee spoke at the fair about his plans for when he’s released in roughly nine years. He hopes to open his own barber shop.

“Time moves a lot faster in prison than most people think,” Lee said. “I want to get ahead of it, rather than wait for my last couple years.”

Kelley Heifort, the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ re-entry services director, said most men and women released from the state’s prisons face barriers when re-entering their communities, including conditions upon their release that require them to hold jobs, have a place to live and stay sober.

The fair is intended to show inmates that there are people and groups that are rooting for them to find success, Heifort said.

Minnesota lawmaker booked after clashes at hotel, hospital

ST. PAUL (AP) — Police said Minnesota state lawmaker Matt Grossell was arrested when he refused to leave a St. Paul hospital where he was taken after allegedly causing a ruckus at a hotel bar.

Police said in a release Sunday that officers were called to the Best Western Plus Capitol Ridge about 1 a.m. Saturday after hotel security complained that an intoxicated man was acting disorderly in the bar area. Officers called paramedics after determining the 53-year-old Grossell, a Republican representative from Clearbrook, could not care for himself.

Grossell was transported to a hospital where he was checked out and cleared. After refusing to leave, Grossell was taken to jail for trespassing.

Grossell, a retired Clearwater County sheriff’s deputy, issued a statement Saturday apologizing “to my family, my constituents, my colleagues, and my friends.” A spokesman for Grossell said the lawmaker would have no further comment.

Hmong American nonprofit to bring more resources to St. Paul

ST. PAUL (AP) — The largest Hmong American nonprofit in the country is trying to bring job training, youth classrooms, childcare and even assisted living to St. Paul.

The Hmong American Partnership plans to develop the projects at three sites in St. Paul around next year, the Pioneer Press reported. But the nonprofit’s projects depend on a $14 million campaign that’s still less than half-funded.

The campaign was backed last summer by then-Gov. Mark Dayton, who signed a bonding bill that included $5.5 million for the nonprofit’s two workforce centers.

One of the centers will bring workforce training, high school classes and a Montessori pre-kindergarten program under one roof.

The 30,000-square-foot building will be used in part to expand a charter school that already serves a large Hmong population in the city, the Community School of Excellence. The project will develop new high school classes at the school, which the nonprofit oversees. A new ninth grade class will be implemented at the center this September, and a grade level will be added each following year.

Graduates who aren’t interested in college will be welcomed to pursue certifications at the center in information technology, health care, human services, education or engineering and design.

“The training program here would cater to a younger population,” rather than the nonprofit’s traditional target group of adult English language learners, said Bao Vang, the nonprofit’s executive director.

The center’s Montessori program would provide childcare for day and evening classes.

The nonprofit is also pursuing a new transportation training center to offer mechanic instruction in the city.

Vang said unemployment remains high for many communities of color in the Twin Cities, including Southeast Asian immigrants.

The unemployment rate for Hmong Americans is 10%, which is well above the 3.1% rate for Minnesota’s workforce and 3.8% for American workers in general.


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