An ex-con discovers ‘Minnesota Nice’

Leigh Sprague just moved here from California, where he served time for transporting stolen funds in foreign commerce.

He acknowledges in his op-ed in the Star Tribune today that his bar for “nice” is pretty low; he came to accept the rudeness of prison as normal… almost nice.

Still, he writes today, Minnesota is pretty nice for a person trying for a second chance.

There have been the potential employers who, when I tell them of my background, do not judge and seem genuinely accepting and willing to take a chance on me and give me the second chance I so long for.

There have been the workers at my halfway house, who treat us with genuine caring and respect, contrary to all of my expectations based on what I had heard about big-city California and New York halfway houses.

And there have been the volunteers at nonprofits dedicated to giving those like me a meaningful shot at a second chance who clothed me when I came out of prison with only a few T-shirts and sweatpants and provided me with good leads on employment.

Sprague has taken a job on the night shift in a printing factory. There, he says, he’s met many Somalis, impressed “by their work ethic, their generosity, their drive and their attempts to adapt to their new home.”

“As someone who, having once been in the privileged mainstream, now finds himself in a new, less-respected category, I can say that Minnesota Nice, and the extent to which it extends to new arrivals of all stripes and creeds, is truly nice,” he writes.

Then again, he probably hasn’t read the comments section yet.

  • Jeff

    In that letter, there was a needless slam against Trump (who as far as I know he’s NEVER said a word about Somalis directly), but outside of that the letter was pretty good…I would like to know more about the man behind the letter, I find it interesting that he has a law degree. I would assume he obtained that before going to jail…but it would be interesting to hear his full story.

  • Mike

    Having lived in Minnesota for more than 20 years, I’ll say that it’s pretty nice in a lot of ways. I’ll also say that the self-congratulation I see in many natives, not to mention the thin skin towards any sort of criticism, can grate a bit. Moreover, for day-to-day hospitality and manners, you just can’t beat the South.

    One of the things I find curious and humorous is the phrase “un-Minnesotan.” I’ve never heard than in any other state, and I find it incredibly pompous and self-righteous.

    • Jerry

      It’s Minnesota Nice, not Minnesota Freindly.

  • Jeff C.

    Interesting to see how someone who goes to Columbia Law School and is an “international lawyer” (i.e. someone who has such a bright future ahead of them) can fall so far because of becoming addicted to drugs and committing crimes because of that addiction. A cautionary tale for people thinking of trying drugs.

    • Kassie

      As someone who has tried drugs, I’ll say most people who use drugs recreationally do not become addicted, lose their job and end up in jail. For further examples please see Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, Rick Steves, Michael Phelps, and millions of others.

      • Al

        Yeah, but Rick Steves. I DON’T TRUST THAT GUY.

      • Jeff

        Marijuana shouldn’t really be in the same category as heroin.

        • Kassie

          No it shouldn’t, but that’s how the government categorizes it. Plus, at least some of the people above have also used other things, like cocaine.

  • Jeff

    I read the letter this morning in the dead trees edition and I had trouble divining between what is “Minnesota Nice” and support the public institutions that our tax dollars fund to integrate people outside mainstream society. You get the nice that you pay for.

    • Al

      Maybe we’re nice in that we like to support organizations that support people in need? (Though that support seems to be declining among Minnesotans, too, which is a damn shame.)

      • Jeff

        Yes, I think it’s a manifestation of nice that we pay higher taxes and we provide for people much better than other places.

        • Tim

          Other places that we often end up subsidizing with our federal tax dollars, no less.

        • Al

          Wait, I can’t tell if you’re being serious. So I’m going to assume you are. I’m totally happy to pay for a better Minnesota, as the party line goes.

          • Jeff

            No sarcasm zone. I agree with the party line.

    • I saw very little in the piece about taxes or institutions as it relates to nice. It sounds like he has a job in the private sector. But narrative.

  • PaulJ

    “Nice” is a benefit of expecting a lot of discipline. It is sort of like what a “trustee” gets. btw trustees need jobs when they get out; a good job is another foundation of niceness.

  • Al

    Huh. There are a lot of Jeffs in the NewsCut comments section.

    That is all.