Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell has directed each of the state’s prisons to implement “Stay with Unit” plans to provide living unit separation, and to minimize the potential for COVID-19 spread. “Stay with Unit” ensures incarcerated individuals participate in facility activities, including any programming, yard time, and dining, only with others in their living unit. By providing living unit separation, better social distancing becomes possible and we minimize the potential for widespread outbreaks across entire facilities.
The following additional measures have been taken to protect those within the Oak Park Heights facility.
Masks: During certain times of the pandemic, such as an outbreak and/or highly contagious variant, we will at times place all facility staff in N95 masks. Staff are required to wear masks at all times inside the facility. All incarcerated people have been supplied surgical masks. Each person has been given an ample supply of masks and instructions on how to put it on, and how to take it off safely. Staff are required to wear masks in the facility and the incarcerated population are required to wear them when outside their cells. The DOC follows Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for when and how personal protective equipment is used.
Co-Pays: Medical co-pays have been reinstated for most situations: including routine medical, dental, eye and physical exams. Any individual reporting respiratory/cold/cough systems will NOT be charged a co-pay at this time. We had previously waived ALL medical co-pays for the duration of the Governor’s declared emergency.
Protecting Staff and their Families: MCF-Oak Park Heights has implemented several measures to protect staff and their families, similar to staff at health care facilities, staff have been provided guidance for steps to take to protect themselves and their families while they continue to come to work every day. Information has been distributed and is on posters at the facility for washing hands when they leave work, designating a door of their home just for them to enter and exit, changing clothes and showering when they get home, and avoiding sharing food, among other steps.
Hand sanitizer stations: MCF-Oak Park Heights has centrally located hand sanitizer stations in the facility. There are hand sanitizer stations at the entrance to the facility, one is located loading dock, one is also located in intake. All individuals are required to use hand sanitizer when entering and exiting the facility. Hand sanitizing stations are inside of each complex at the entrance/exit slider. Restrooms and kitchenettes also have sinks to wash hands. All individuals (staff and incarcerated people) are encouraged to wash their hands frequently throughout the day.
Screening: All staff have their temperature taken and are screened daily for recent symptoms. If they have been symptomatic, a physician’s approval is required to return to work. All staff are provided with protective masks and are required to wear them.
Isolation Plans: MCF-Oak Park Heights has an isolation plan in place. Details include incarcerated people who report or demonstrate respiratory symptoms and/or if Health Services become aware of a symptomatic incarcerated individual, the individual will be isolated in their cell on isolation status as a “person under investigation” pending further assessment. If it is medically indicated that the incarcerated person must remain on isolation status, a COVID-19 test will be obtained. If the COVID-19 test is positive, the incarcerated person will continue isolation status for 10 days from the start of symptoms and must be symptom/fever free for 72 hours after that. Health Services staff will monitor and treat the individual throughout the isolation status.
Phones: Incarcerated individuals now receive two free five-minute phone calls per week in addition to the standard calls they could already purchase. Phone banks are sanitized with germicide or bleach and water by janitors at least four times per day.
Visiting: All visits must be scheduled in advance. Visitors need to call MCF-Oak Park Heights 651-779-1400, select option 3 then select option 6 to speak with a visiting staff during the hours of 10:30 - 7:30 Wednesday through Saturday. Visits must be scheduled no less than 24 hours in advance and no more than 10 days in advance. Visits can also be scheduled using the Online Scheduling Option: https://login.nowaitinside.com/#/booking/d75MOO9WM4RBeU8GgxTjRkdB (won't open in IE, use another browser).
Visits are limited to one hour.
Visitors entering the facility:
· All visitors will need to sanitize their hands and will be screened including temperature taken upon entrance into the lobby. To accommodate this, visitors are to arrive 15 minutes prior to their scheduled visit time.
· It is mandatory for all visitors to wear barrier masks when inside the facility. Visitors are responsible for providing their own barrier mask.
· Visitors are expected to socially distance from others that aren’t in the same household /vehicle when in the lobby, sally ports, and walking to/ from the visiting room.
· Visitors will need to follow the same staff and contractor screening process. Visitors who do not follow the Department of Corrections COVID-19 Screening process will not be allowed to visit.
· Visitors will remove their mask for identification purposes when being registered.
· Tables and writing utensils are sanitized frequently.
Video Visiting: The video visiting hours have been expanded, and each inmate can also sign up for an additional 15 minute video visit. Video Kiosks are sanitized with germicide or bleach and water by inmate janitor workers at least four times per day.
Showers and Bathrooms: Incarcerated people still have access to showers and bathroom facilities as usual, with regular cleaning and disinfecting.
Recreation, Yard, and Courtyard Time: Outdoor recreation time is still occurring. Certain non-contact games are allowed, such as handball, using exercise equipment, and weight training. Social distancing is monitored by Corrections Officers. Equipment is disinfected by janitors and monitored by Corrections Officers. At this time a maximum of 30 incarcerated people can be in the gym, which is half of the unit at a time. Hand sanitizer stations have been installed in each complex work out area and the gym.
Food Services: Incarcerated people at MCF-Oak Park Heights have always eaten meals in their living units or their cells. Currently, incarcerated individuals come out to pick up their trays, eat in the units, and then return the trays when they are done. Incarcerated people who receive a meal while they are working in the Canteen area receive their meal in the Canteen area and eat their meal while ensuring social distancing, which is monitored by Canteen staff, Corrections Officers, and Unit Supervisors.
Work: MCF-Oak Park Heights incarcerated workers are working their regular job assignments: kitchen workers, canteen, janitors, mentors, tutors, education workers, yard crew and laundry workers practicing social distancing which is monitored by Corrections Officers, Canteen Staff, and Unit Supervisors.
Medication: MCF-Oak Park Heights nursing staff deliver medication to incarcerated people in each complex several times per day.
Mail and Emails: Incarcerated people at Oak Park Heights can still send and receive mail and emails as they normally would.
Canteen: Items purchased from canteen are delivered to the living units.
Education: Oak Park Heights is providing students with distance learning. Students receive education packets in their cells. If they are in need of tutor assistance, the incarcerated individuals are to receive tutoring at a table in the complex still using social distancing. If a teacher is needed, they will receive tutoring in the television room still adhering to social distancing.
Treatment: Oak Park Height continues to provide small group and individual mental health treatment and interventions. Social distancing is maintained by Corrections Officers and Clinical Program Therapists.
Television: Incarcerated people still have access to televisions—their own purchased televisions and in the general population day rooms, with the appropriate social distancing, which is monitored by Corrections Officers.