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Spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota prisons has families concerned

Plus: Twitter CEO donates to boost St. Paul guaranteed income program; teen who recorded George Floyd video honored with PEN America Courage Award; Ellison on the U.S. election system; and more.

prison cells
A scary situation. MPR’s Kirsti Marohn writes: “Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, Russell Swanson reported to a federal prison camp in Duluth to begin serving a 10-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. … Swanson is only 37 years old, but he has chronic kidney disease and high blood pressure, and is a former pack-a-day smoker — all risk factors for the coronavirus. … His wife, Amy Wagner, requested that he be released on house arrest. She was optimistic about Swanson’s chances to be approved for the federal Bureau of Prisons compassionate release program. … But on Nov. 23, a federal judge denied Swanson’s request, due to the seriousness of his crime and because he’d served less than 10 percent of his sentence. … It was tough news for Wagner, who worries that, for her husband, contracting COVID-19 in prison could be a death sentence.

St. Paul guaranteed income boost. The Star Tribune’s Shannon Prather reports: “Guaranteed income pilot programs in St. Paul, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and cities across America received a $15 million boost on Tuesday. … Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is donating $15 million to programs across the country, the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income group announced Tuesday. The more than two dozen mayors participating in the group, including St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, will each receive a minimum of $500,000 to grow or sustain their programs. This builds on Dorsey’s initial $3 million donation last summer.

Courage indeed. WCCO reports: “The teenager who sparked a global movement with her video of George Floyd’s final moments will receive a prestigious award Tuesday night for her courage. … PEN America is set to honor Darnella Frazier with its 2020 Courage Award. Frazier, a 17-year-old high school senior, used her cell phone on May 25 to record video of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, even after the handcuffed Black man went unconscious.”

Ellison on Trump’s election lawsuits. Bloomberg’s Erik Larson reports: “President Donald Trump’s wild claim of a vast conspiracy to deprive him of a second term has created an unprecedented stress test on the U.S. election system and the courts, according to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. And so far, they’re passing, he said. … Lawsuits filed by Trump and his GOP allies have fizzled, while election officials — including Republicans — have stood by the results and rejected the president’s unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud, Ellison said an interview Friday, hours after the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed a Republican-led suit that aimed to decertify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state.”

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In other news…

Attention southeast Minnesota hunters:DNR sets special deer hunts to combat CWD” [KARE]

Well, that’s efficient:Police: 2 Amazon delivery vehicles stolen in St. Paul over the weekend, 1 at gunpoint” [KSTP]

Pass/fail vote passes:University Senate advocates universal pass/fail option for undergraduate students” [Minnesota Daily]