The Stillwater prison was placed on emergency lockdown Sunday morning after 80-100 inmates in one unit refused to return to their cells.
The Department of Corrections said in a press release that all staff were removed from the common areas of the unit while two corrections officers “stayed in the unit’s secure control area.” The DOC said it activated its Crisis Negotiation Team and Special Operations Response Team as the two officers remained in contact with command personnel.
There were no reported injuries as of Sunday morning, but several medical responders and law enforcement agencies responded to the “takeover,” Crime Watch Minneapolis reported.
No reported injuries at this time but several medical responders have been requested to stage.
80-100 refused to go into their cells in one unit.
Multiple law enforcement agencies are responding.
— CrimeWatchMpls (@CrimeWatchMpls) September 3, 2023
AFSCME Council 5, a union representing corrections officers and staff, said the incident “highlights the truth behind the operations of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.”
Interim Executive Director Bart Andersen said:
“Today’s incident at MCF-Stillwater is endemic and highlights the truth behind the operations of the MN Department of Corrections with chronic understaffing leading to upset offenders due to the need to restrict programming and/or recreation time when there are not enough security staff to protect the facility. Our union believes to our core that our correctional facilities cannot have transformational offender programming without sufficient facility security, we can and must have both.
“AFSCME Council 5 leadership has recently toured nearly all of our correctional facilities across Minnesota and we have continued to hear first hand from hundreds of staff about the critical need to raise wages for correctional officers and staff in order to hire more talented people to come work in this honorable profession and protect public safety and retain the honorable workers we have currently.
“Without more staffing in our correctional facilities with talented people, we will continue down this unacceptable road of staff assaults, offenders controlling sections of our prisons, and more. Our union members must be part of the solution and we will continue to raise our ideas and concerns at all levels because the lives of all correctional facility staff depends on it.”
The activist group Communities United Against Police Brutality claimed the prisoners were “peacefully protesting a lack of access to clean water,” which the DOC said is “patently false.”
“They have been locked in with no access to ice or showers for days due to understaffing,” the group said. “Prisoner rights groups are asking people to go to Stillwater Prison to bear witness.”
Update 4:50 p.m.: The Minnesota Department of Corrections said Sunday afternoon that the situation has “been resolved without incident and all the incarcerated individuals have returned to their cells.”
DOC spokesperson Andy Skoogman said there were no injuries, and the situation, which began around 8 a.m., was “calm, peaceful and stable throughout the day.”
According to Skoogman, some of the inmates were upset because the DOC modified cell release schedules for the holiday weekend.
“The modified schedule provides limited access facility-wide to out-of-cell time for showers, phone use and recreation. The modification is due to staffing challenges. Claims by some in the housing unit and from outside groups about a lack of clean water in the facility are patently false,” he said.