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PNS Daily Newscast - September 25, 2020 


Democrats reported to be preparing a smaller pandemic relief package; vote-by-mail awaits a court decision in Montana.


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Lawyer: Fears of COVID-19 Cases at Other MN Prisons

At least a dozen people incarcerated at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and there are dozens more suspected cases. (mn.gov)
At least a dozen people incarcerated at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and there are dozens more suspected cases. (mn.gov)
April 17, 2020

MOOSE LAKE, Minn. - The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has taken legal action against the state following a COVID-19 outbreak at the Moose Lake prison. The group fears that similar outbreaks will happen at other prisons if the Department of Corrections doesn't act soon enough.

ACLU of Minnesota Staff Attorney Dan Shulman says the suit claims the prison isn't testing people who are incarcerated, despite the outbreak of cases, and alleges there also aren't enough safe distancing measures. And Schulman worries that staff members at other prisons will bring the virus into their facilities, putting more people at risk.

"It doesn't respect people," says Shulman. "I mean, you know, it goes where it goes. It's a body snatcher, and it's scary."

The virus also has surfaced at the state prison at Willow River.

The suit demands that people at risk behind bars - who are not a threat to the public and whose sentences are winding down - be released if they have a safe location for isolation.

In a statement, the department says it's continuing work on a plan to safely reduce the statewide prison population in response to the pandemic. It also disputes any claim that COVID-19 testing has stopped at Moose Lake.

Shulman says he appreciates that the department is working on plans to protect people in prison across Minnesota. But he says the plan needs to come together faster to prevent outbreaks among those populations.

And he thinks even more immediate action is needed at Moose Lake.

"You can do all the planning you want for the places that don't have it, but for the place that has it, you darn well better do something now," says Shulman.

The suit also requests that the court appoint someone with expert knowledge of the situation to oversee these efforts.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN