Minnesota corrections commissioner: 'Tougher penalties coming for inmates who assault prison staff'

February 19, 2019 10:24 PM

Minnesota Corrections Department Commissioner Paul Schnell tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS his agency is reviewing and will "soon" implement tougher discipline for inmates who assault prison staff.

"We are in the process of making these changes," said Schnell. "We do not have a specific date for the change, but I can tell you it will happen soon and there will be more strict and tougher discipline for the most egregious assaults which [are] against prison staff."

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In 2018, DOC records show there was an increase in the number of inmate assaults against corrections officers and two officers died while on the job-- one at Stillwater Corrections Facility and the other at Oak Park Heights Corrections Facility.

RELATED: Corrections officer assaulted at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater

For the past year, corrections officers and their union have stated a change in the DOC's segregation policies had contributed to the increase in attacks on prison staff.

Commissioner Schnell said there was no evidence to suggest the deaths of the corrections officers were connected in any way to the change in the segregation, or solitary confinement, policies.

"There is nothing to show the two are related," said Schnell. "But, we have been listening to the concerns of the officers and we do think the policy needs more teeth."

RELATED: DOC confirms 2 corrections officers injured in assault Faribault Facility

In 2016, the DOC implemented a step-down disciplinary policy for inmates found guilty of attacking prison staff and corrections officers said the punishment went from a maximum of 720 days, or two years in isolation, to a possible minimum of 90 days.

"There were problems, in hindsight, on how the new policy was implemented," said Schnell. "And, now we are going to make some significant changes that will make prison facilities safer for corrections officers and for offenders."

Schnell would not give specifics on what those changes will be, but a source told KSTP the punishment will be a minimum of one year in segregation for an assault on a prison staff member.

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Jay Kolls

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