ST. PAUL – The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) presented a scathing report on prison safety to a joint meeting of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Policy and Finance Division and the Corrections Division Wednesday. The report details a lack of formal tracking on violent incidents, forced overtime, outdated and dangerous infrastructure, and inadequate oversight. Representative Brian Johnson, Republican Lead on the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Policy and Finance Division, and Representative Marion O’Neill, Republican Lead on the Corrections Division, released the following statement. Both representatives are available to respond to the report.
“Today’s report paints a disturbing picture of conditions at our prisons that severely jeopardize the safety of our corrections officers and prison staff,” said Johnson. “Violence in our prisons is an epidemic, and we need to do everything we can to stop the assaults and harassment.”
Rep. Johnson presented a bill in the Corrections Division last week that would revoke “good time” from prisoners that assault corrections officers. The bill, HF 1205, was laid over without further action by the committee. Rep. Johnson has also been meeting with Department of Corrections staff and union officials who represent corrections officers to discuss other legislative changes that may help address prison safety issues.
“It’s extremely concerning that sexual harassment and criminal offenses committed against female corrections officers aren’t tracked or punished,” said O’Neill. “We also heard that female staff who are the victims of this behavior are not supported by their coworkers or supervisors, and some even face retaliation for reporting offenses. I am calling for an immediate zero tolerance policy. This is absolutely unacceptable, and it needs to change now.”
The OLA found five key shortcomings by the Department of Corrections, including lack of information, staffing shortages, a workplace culture of bullying and harassment, minimal outside oversight, and outdated infrastructure. The full report can be found on the OLA’s website.