The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) said that a situation at the Stillwater prison, where inmates staged a protest on Sunday, is now resolved and under control. However, the prison remains in lockdown until further notice.
According to DOC spokesperson Sarah Fitzgerald, the inmates refused to return to their cells after recreation time on Sunday afternoon. They demanded more time outside their cells and more access to programs and services that have been restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fitzgerald said that the staff used chemical agents and non-lethal weapons to disperse the inmates and regain control of the unit. No injuries were reported among staff or inmates. She said that the DOC is investigating the incident and will take appropriate disciplinary actions against the involved inmates.
Inmate explains the reasons behind the protest
FOX 9 obtained a recorded phone call from an inmate at the Stillwater prison, who explained the reasons behind the protest. The inmate, who did not want to be identified, said that they were frustrated with the lack of activities and opportunities at the prison.
He said that they have been locked down for most of the day since March 2020, when the COVID-19 outbreak started. He said that they only get one hour of recreation time per day, and that they have no access to education, work, or treatment programs.
He also said that they have not been able to see their families or friends in person for over a year, and that they only get two video visits per month. He said that they feel isolated and depressed, and that they want more human contact and social interaction.
He said that they decided to protest peacefully by refusing to return to their cells, hoping that their voices would be heard by the DOC and the public. He said that they did not intend to harm anyone or cause any damage.
DOC responds to the inmates’ demands
Fitzgerald said that the DOC understands the inmates’ frustration and that it is working hard to resume normal operations at the prison as soon as possible. She said that the DOC has been following the guidance of health experts and implementing measures to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 at its facilities.
She said that the DOC has been gradually expanding its services and programs for inmates, such as video visits, phone calls, emails, tablets, canteen, library, and mail. She said that the DOC is also planning to resume in-person visits in June, with some limitations and precautions.
She said that the DOC values the safety and well-being of its staff and inmates, and that it appreciates their patience and cooperation during this challenging time. She said that the DOC hopes to restore normalcy at the Stillwater prison as soon as it is safe to do so.