Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell recently appeared on a podcast with Maurice Ward, a former inmate who assaulted a corrections officer.
“I appreciate the opportunity to come have this conversation,” Schnell said in the podcast. “I think it’s great.”
Clips of the interview posted to TikTok show Schnell and Ward pretending to box each other. Another image shows Ward flipping off the camera with Schnell next to him.
“It’s a motherf— ex-offender talking to the commissioner. Never thought that was gonna happen,” Ward said in a TikTok.
Another TikTok video posted by Ward appears to show him laughing about assaulting an officer, explaining that he got sent from Faribault to Oak Park Heights for assaulting staff. “These motherf— got enough nerve to try to send me to court, they wanna try me because I’m getting out,” Ward said.
He also addressed the assault during the interview with Schnell, saying that the prosecutor was trying to “double charge” him after he did eight months in a maximum security prison for the assault. Ward said he considers himself to be an abolitionist and wants to get rid of prisons entirely.
Troy Hodgkins, a former corrections officer at the Minnesota Corrections Facility in Faribault who just retired a month ago, told Alpha News that Ward was in his facility. He said Ward was in prison on charges of prostituting two minors.
Hodgkins explained that Ward assaulted a new officer at the facility and he stepped in. Ward continued to fight with the officers, biting Hodgkins in the arm and leaving him with a knee injury, he said.
According to Hodgkins, the county attorney began the process of prosecuting Ward for the assault on corrections staff but within just a few weeks the charges were dropped. “Since he wasn’t charged he was a free bird,” Hodgkins told Alpha News.
Hodgkins said he recently retired and shortly afterwards received an email and “there’s the commissioner referring to this guy as the ‘smoothest.’”
Hodgkins told Alpha News that the videos of Schnell made him sick.
“I’ve been in touch with the prison. It’s a huge slap in the face. Commissioner Schnell is big on code of conduct. We would have been fired and here he is out with an ex-inmate making TikToks and flipping us all off,” he said.
Hodgkins has been reaching out to legislators to file a formal complaint against Schnell and wants to meet with him personally to discuss the matter. He has also contacted Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, for support.
“He’s treating the staff like shit. Inmates get everything,” Hodgkins said. “He has one job to do, and that is to keep staff safe and inmates in the fence. He’s not doing that.”
Hodgkins said he believes Schnell needs to go. “I want to make sure everyone knows what kind of guy Paul Schnell is,” he said.
“It’s hard enough to go to work in this environment when you know these inmates don’t like you and then you’re left with a boss that doesn’t have your back, too,” he said.
The DOC told Alpha News that Schnell is “open minded” in a statement responding to the criticism. “Commissioner Schnell has a long track record of being very open minded and having conversations with a multitude of people with vastly differing opinions,” the DOC said.
As Alpha News previously reported, Schnell also recently came under fire for his actions to demote a corrections officer and take away the officer’s dog. Schnell reportedly reversed course and allowed the dog to stay with the handler following public backlash.