Minn. Lawmakers Want Answers from Department of Corrections on Safety Issues, Staff Levels

October 01, 2018 06:41 AM

After the recent deaths of two Minnesota corrections officers on duty and a rise in offender assaults against corrections officers, two state lawmakers told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS "this threat against corrections officers has to stop."

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, told KSTP as chair of the Judiciary Committee, he plans to hold hearings on spending and safety issues regarding the DOC.


"These hearings will be within the budget process next session," Limmer said. "And, these committee hearings will be vigorous with a lot of scrutiny on the DOC concerning its budget, safety and policies."

Sen. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, said she supports hearings on recent DOC problems, along with a serious review of policies, with additional focus on hiring new corrections officers while retaining the staff already in place.

"I think this will be a top priority at the Capitol when the Legislature convenes in January," Bigham said. "These assaults have to stop and there has to be a commitment to budget for at least an additional 70 corrections officers statewide."

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Bigham said the recent deaths of officers Joseph Gomm and Joe Parise are "unbelievable" and the state has an obligation to the families of both men to fix safety and staffing issues.

"My heart goes out their families and we cannot let this go without fixing it," Bigham said. "And, we need to keep it as a top priority into the transition of a new governor and new DOC administration, because I know I am not going to let it go."

One day after the death of Parise, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees called on lawmakers to approve additional funding for new officers and for safety improvements.

AFSCME Council 5 associate director Tim Henderson said his organization will be back at the Legislature in January with a new proposal for lawmakers to consider for addressing these issues.

"And, we expect that to be approved," Henderson said. "We don't expect any legislative game playing or any politics to be involved with any of this."

In recent weeks, the DOC said it had asked the Legislature to approve funding for an additional 187 officers statewide in recent years, but only received enough money to hire 15 of those requested positions.

The Legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 8, 2019.


Jay Kolls

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