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MCF-Stillwater COVID-19 Response

(Reviewed March 2, 2022) 

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 Stillwater facility. This list is not necessarily exhaustive of all measures in place.

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-Stillwater has implemented a number of measures to protect staff and their families. Similar to staff at health care facilities, DOC staff have been provided guidance for steps to take to protect their families while they continue to come to work. 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 washing stations: MCF-Stillwater has installed new hand washing stations in the facility. Two hand washing sinks were installed in the lobby of the facility (in addition to the existing bathroom sinks) and other hand washing stations were installed in the Minimum Security Unit. All individuals are required to wash their hands when entering and exiting the facility. Stillwater’s cells have sinks and water to facilitate hand washing, the Minimum Security Unit has multiple sinks available in restrooms directly adjacent to the living quarters. Ten additional hand sanitizer receptacles were installed throughout the facility to provide hand sanitization when away from their cell. All individuals (staff and incarcerated) are encouraged to wash their hands frequently throughout the day.

Screening: All staff take their temperature and are screened on a daily basis for recent symptoms. If they have been symptomatic, a physician’s approval is required to return to work. All staff are provided with barrier masks and are required to wear them.

Isolation & Quarantine Plans: MCF-Stillwater has an isolation and quarantine plans in place. Details include utilizing separate wings of one living unit for those needing to be isolated while recovering from COVID, as well as individuals quarantined from general population while being screened due to potential exposure, when newly arriving at the facility, or if they have been transported outside the facility. This living unit will be kept separate from the general population and has appropriate air handling and layout to minimize risk to other incarcerated people and staff.

Phones: Incarcerated people at MCF-Stillwater now receive two free five-minute phone calls per week in addition to the standard calls they could already purchase. Out of cell recreation time has been altered to allow greater access to phones at a wider range of times to help facilitate calls. Phones are cleaned by living unit cleaning crew with germicidal cleaner four times per day. Cleaning supplies are also available to those wishing to wipe down a phone as needed throughout the day.

Video Visiting: Friends and family who wish to utilize video visits now receive one free 15-minute video visit per week. Additional video visits can also be purchased at a reduced rate, and hours for video visits have been expanded. Out-of-cell recreation time at MCF-Stillwater has been altered to provide all incarcerated people regular access to the video visit kiosks. Kiosks are cleaned by living unit cleaning crews with germicidal cleaner four times per day. Cleaning supplies are also available to those wishing to wipe down a kiosk as needed throughout the day.

In-Person Visiting: In-person visiting at Stillwater is closed until further notice.

Showers and Bathrooms: Incarcerated people still have access to showers and bathroom facilities. Incarcerated people at Stillwater have access to daily showers, and sinks/toilets in their cells and living area. All showers are individual stalls and are spaced out to promote social distancing.

Barbershops: Unit Barbershops have reopened. 

Recreation and Yard Time: All incarcerated people have regular access to a variety of out-of-cell activities on a daily basis. In-unit recreation periods happen daily and the schedule is balanced to provide equal access to all. Out-of-unit recreation includes both indoor recreation spaces and an outdoor yard. Time in the recreation areas is offered daily on a rotating schedule. We have temporarily suspended all contact sports at this time. This means no sports where there is a likelihood of coming into physical contact with each other such as basketball, handball, soccer, football, floor hockey, etc. They are allowed to still have equipment to be used individually (or in pairs for catch). Softball games have resumed, but are limited to teams from the same living unit and all equipment is cleaned between groups. Common surfaces and equipment is disinfected on a regular basis with a germicidal cleaner and monitored by Recreation staff. The Minnesota Department of Health advised us to make this change to our recreation activities to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in our facility.

Food Services: MCF-Stillwater is providing 3 meals per day in the living units. We are currently following a DOC wide menu that has been created by DOC dietitians to ensure we are following all nutritional guidelines.  

Work: Stillwater has incarcerated people working in: Dining Hall/ Kitchen, Recreation, Canteen, Grounds Crew, Warehouse, Hallway Cleaning, Living Unit Cleaning Crews (also known as Swampers), Vocational Carpentry and Diversified Industry. All individuals on work assignments do so in keeping with our “Stay-with-Unit” plans. They are only working and moving to and from their work assignments with others from their living unit.

Medication: Stillwater nursing staff are delivering all medications directly to the living units to promote social distancing, and to keep the living units separate from one another.

Mail and Emails: Incarcerated people can still send and receive mail and emails as they normally would.

Canteen: The store known as, Canteen, is operating normally, with additional measures in place for social distancing.

Education: Beginning Monday June 22, 202, the MCF-Stillwater Education Department transitioned to a “blended learning environment”. Students will be attending face-to-face class in the department on a part-time basis and this instruction will be augmented by distance learning. The face-to-face delivery will follow the “Stay with Unit”/containment model in that we will only have one living unit in the Education Department at a time. Incarcerated people and all departmental staff will wear masks at all times. Additionally, we will maintain social distancing in all areas of the Education Department.

Behavior Health Services: Atlantis Substance Use Disorder programming is currently back to full in -person programming of all the core groups. All clients have been returned to the therapeutic environment and groups are held daily, using appropriate social distancing and barrier masks. The Atlantis program will continue to maintain the single cells in order to promote social distancing measures. Mental Health Groups (SLS and TSP) have resumed as well as in-person psychiatric services individual therapy appointments and crisis interventions, using appropriate social distancing and barrier masks. The department has installed plexiglass dividers in the interview rooms to help in reducing risk of spread of COVID while providing individual sessions. General population groups have resumed using the “stay with unit” model.

Television: Incarcerated people in MCF-Stillwater have individual personal televisions that are purchased from Canteen for in cell viewing. Incarcerated individuals are also able to purchase clock radios and small tablet computers for listening to music and composing email. The facility is playing videos on the internal video network which include COVID information as well as encouraging everyone to get the vaccine

Additional Social Distancing: Religious services and other groups are temporarily on hold to promote social distancing and to reduce the risk of spreading the virus at group gatherings. We have increased the availability of prerecorded religious programming broadcasts on the internal television network to compensate for the suspension of group faith programming.

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