MN Faces Calls to Investigate Prison Conditions
Monday, September 11, 2023
Prison reform advocates in Minnesota continue to speak out following a lockdown at the correctional facility in Stillwater.
People incarcerated there want better conditions, and their supporters say systemic issues need to be addressed.
A coalition is now calling for two state offices to conduct an independent human rights investigation after those being held at Stillwater staged a peaceful protest earlier this month.
The issues include a lack of air conditioning during excessive heat and poor water quality.
David Boehnke, an organizer with the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, said it adds to longstanding concerns across the correctional system.
"There's a pattern and practice here," said Boehnke, "and there's just a refusal to look at these types of inhuman conditions and create actual solutions."
Boehnke contended these individuals are having their rights violated while still being expected to perform the work they're ordered to do in carrying out their sentences.
He suggested treating them better can lead to better outcomes after they're released.
The Department of Corrections cites staffing issues for some of the concerns, and argues that some of the claims are false.
Advocates say while the prison population is their primary concern, Marvina Haynes - founder of the group Minnesota Wrongfully Convicted Judicial Reform - pointed out that rough conditions can negatively affect correctional staff, too.
"Officers are working in inhumane conditions," said Haynes, "and it just causes a more stressful environment."
Haynes also has a brother incarcerated at Stillwater, and she says inmates have provided details of brown water inside the prison. That's one of the claims corrections administrators have said is false.
Meanwhile, the union representing corrections officers at Stillwater echoes concerns about operations at the facility.
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