New DOC Commissioner, lawmakers agree on prison security

January 23, 2019 06:39 PM

The new commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections met with members of the state legislature for the first time Wednesday.

Paul Schnell appeared before a joint House-Senate committee, saying the safety of his 4,300 employees is his top priority. Especially when it comes to the 2,100 corrections officers who deal with inmates on a daily basis.


RELATED: New DOC commissioner says officer safety is top priority

The comments come after the number of reports of assaults on staff members at the state's prisons increased from 74 in 2017 to 120 in 2018 - including two deaths. The number is at 59 so far in fiscal year 2019, with about six months to go until the fiscal year ends on June 30.

"For me, this is a critical time," said Schnell, a former police chief. "It's something that I understand through a different, but connected experience in losing a colleague in the line of duty as the folks in the Department of Corrections have experienced."

RELATED: Walz announces new leadership in education, corrections

"Of course, we've had some horrendous problems this year that we do not want to see repeated and we will be dealing with the safety and security of the institutions," said Rep. John Considine, DFL-Mankato, the chairman of the House Corrections Committee.

"Without safety and security in institutions we really can't accomplish our other goals."

Wednesday's hearing was informational, meant to give lawmakers some background on the corrections system. On Friday, several lawmakers will tour the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater where corrections officer Joseph Gomm was killed last July.


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Tom Hauser

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Cool weather expected Wednesday