Minnesota is seeing the first cases of COVID-19 in our corrections system. Four incarcerated individuals and a corrections staff person at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility have tested positive, as has a staff person at the Red Wing Correctional Facility. The individuals have been isolated, quarantine is in effect for others, and the Department of Corrections is confident they are doing everything they can to mitigate the possibility of widespread outbreaks.
Senate DFLers recognize the risk factors of a COVID-19 outbreak in our corrections systems. There is a lot of movement in and out of our jails and prisons as incarcerated people filter through the system, visitors come and go, and the people who work in them, including our corrections officers, leave and return daily. Viruses have multiple entry points, and those that enter tend to spread quickly.
The Department of Corrections, as well as a number of the state’s county jails, have taken proactive measures to reduce the risk of infection as well as the overall population of incarcerated people. One of the most effective ways to reduce the appearance and spread of COVID-19 in the state prisons and county jails is to reduce those who might be exposed to it. Many county jails are releasing the incarcerated individuals that don’t pose a threat to public safety. Most offenders in county jails are there because they have a sentence of less than a year for a nonviolent crime, can’t afford the bail to be released, or are awaiting their day in court in a backlogged system.
The Department of Corrections is also looking at ways to reduce the population in the state’s prisons.
Senate DFLers are committed to reducing the possibility of a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 in our corrections systems. The Department of Corrections has implemented a number of changes to reduce that risk, and we are committed to supporting the department and some of our most vulnerable constituents in reducing that risk and keeping individuals informed.