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Inmate attacks increase significantly at Minn. prison

Assaults against staff at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights rose 81 percent from 2013 to 2017

By Corrections1 Staff

OAK PARK HEIGHTS, Minn. — Inmate attacks on employees have been significantly increasing at a Minnesota prison over the years.

The Associated Press reports that assaults against staff at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights rose 81 percent from 2013 to 2017, increasing from 21 attacks to 38. Last month, 10 employees at the prison were attacked in a single weekend.

The state’s nine prisons have experienced a rise in assaults against staff, rising 21 percent from 2013 to 2017, to 114 attacks. Rep. Jack Considine said looking into the increase attacks is an urgent task and that he’s been contacted by employees about the worsening conditions at the prison.

“They [prison staff] are no different from police officers in the field,” Considine said. “Their safety has got to be protected.”

Prison employees said lax policies are contributing to the rise of assaults on staff. Last month, an anonymous employee said the “flawed” solitary confinement policies have led to more inmate attacks.

In September 2016, the state DOC reduced the number of time inmates spent in segregation from two years to 90 days.

“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,” the employee said last month.

Earlier this month, the department announced that it was revising its segregation policy. Under the revised policy, inmates will have a chance to enter a four-step behavioral program and regain prvilages while transitioning to the general population. The program “is to be completed over approximately 12 months.”

Sarah Fitzgerald, spokesperson for the state DOC, said change to the segregation rule in 2016 hasn’t been proven to be the cause of violence.

“We cannot attribute a single cause to the increase,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said other factors that might contribute to the rising attacks may be due to “mental illness, personal vendettas, gang activity or related street incidents spilling over into our facilities.”