Judge again stops Minnesota DOC from returning inmates given COVID-19 release

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) can still not reincarcerate prisoners who were given conditional leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a judge ruled this week.

Monday, Ramsey County Judge Mark Ireland denied DOC’s motion to dissolve a temporary restraining order preventing it from returning certain inmates.

DOC’s program allowed inmates who were deemed to be at a “higher risk of grave harm from COVID-19” to receive early supervised release. However, when the department decided to end the program earlier this year — citing the wide availability of COVID vaccines and treatments — some inmates sued. Ireland then granted the order in August to temporarily stop the inmates’ return.

RELATED: DOC seeks to reincarcerate 3 inmates given COVID-19 release

While 158 inmates were granted conditional release under the program during the pandemic, DOC had sought to return just 18. However, in October, the department trimmed the number of inmates it was seeking to return to just three, although a fourth was slated to have a hearing regarding a possible violation of release conditions and a decision on a fifth was deferred due to ongoing medical procedures.

Ireland’s latest order ensure’s the inmates in question will be allowed to spend the holidays with their families, as the next hearing in the case is scheduled for March 27.

In a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, a spokesperson for DOC said the department has received the latest order and is still reviewing it.