“For the first time in the history of the Minnesota legislature, we will have a legislative hearing in a prison.”
Mankato D.F.L. State Representative Jack Considine and other members of the House corrections subcommittee will go behind bars to the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater Wednesday to hold a hearing connected to legislation meant to increase prison safety.
Considine, who chairs the committee, said their central theme is, “Going home safely, and not only for the staff but also for the residents.”
The attention is on Stillwater after officer Joseph Gomm was allegedly murdered there last year by inmate Edward Johnson. He was the first corrections officer in Minnesota to be killed in the line of duty.
Corrections unions and prison staff recently put together a study that showed a need for hundreds of additional corrections officers in the state system, and Considine is behind a bill meant to address those needs. “It would do so over the course of four years, two bienniums. The numbers are probably going to be rather large,” he explained.
Short staffing poses other problems as well, Considine added, including the cancellation of visitations between inmates and family members. He said that in itself is a potential safety concern because, “Nothing infuriates the folks that live there like having their visiting canceled. Family members sometimes have traveled for hours to get there, it’s the one time they see them maybe in a month or so. That’s a real volatile situation.”
Considine is a former corrections worker and said his ultimate goal, once the prisons are safe, is to look at increasing programming and services to reduce the state’s prison population because, “I want to see less people in prison and more people out working and productive.”
Also last year, officer Joseph Parise died following a medical emergency at the Minnesota Correctional Facility — Oak Park Heights after responding to an inmate assault on another officer.