'Flawed' Disciplinary Policy Causes Spike in Assaults on Prison Guards, Corrections Employee Says

March 26, 2018 10:48 PM

A Minnesota Department of Corrections employee says a "flawed inmate disciplinary policy" is causing a statewide spike in prison guard assaults perpetrated by inmates.

The employee, who asked not to be identified for safety reasons, said inmates used to receive a two-year stint in what's referred to as "segregation" when they were found guilty of assaulting a prison staff member. But a change in policy has reduced that penalty, the employee says.

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"With a change in policy, inmates who assault prison staff now only get 90 days in segregation instead of two years," the corrections employee said. "The inmates know they will only be separated from the general population for a short amount of time, without privileges, and they figure it is worth it, so they are now targeting prison staff."

RELATED: 5 Minnesota Prison Workers Injured in Inmate Melee

The corrections worker said the state is fortunate that no prison guards or staff members have been killed.

"They are pretty lucky, because the assault at Oak Park Heights Friday night was nasty," the employee said. "Someone could have been killed because it was eight inmates attacking five guards."

Minnesota Department of Corrections spokesperson Sarah Fitzgerald confirmed 10 officers have been assaulted at the Oak Park Heights facility since last Friday, and that most of those guards required hospital treatment and were released.

A KSTP check of Department of Corrections records for every Minnesota prison facility found there have been 22 reported inmate assaults on prison guards through the first three months of 2018. That's more than the past two years combined; there were a total of 13 assaults in 2017 and eight in 2016.

Fitzgerald explained why the Department of Corrections made the policy change in late 2016 in this statement:

Corrections departments around the country are enacting reform around the issue of restrictive housing, due to mental health effects of long-term placement, and the mental state of offenders returning to our communities and living among us. Following the release of restrictive housing policy guidelines by the Association of State Correctional Administrators and the American Corrections Association (with whom we are accredited) the DOC initiated a Discipline/Restrictive Housing Project in early 2016. Like the Federal Bureau of Prisons and many other states, the DOC has now reduced restrictive housing penalties for misconduct. The date of the change was September 6, 2016.

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Jay Kolls

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