The facility has followed Minnesota Department of Health guidance for isolation, quarantine, and testing from the beginning. Moose Lake has implemented a “Stay with Unit” plan, in addition to other measures, to continue efforts to combat COVID-19 and protect staff and the people incarcerated in the facility. Similar to Governor Walz’s “Stay at Home” order, MCF-Moose Lake’s “Stay with Unit” plan ensures incarcerated individuals participate in facility activities only with others in their living unit.
Under normal operations, incarcerated people from different living units might be intermingled for certain activities, including in the dining hall, educational programming, or facility industry or work opportunities. With close living quarters in most prisons, this intermingling can allow a virus like COVID-19 to spread quickly, among both staff and offenders.
Information has been distributed and is on posters at the facility for washing hands when staff leave work, designating a door of their home just for them to enter and exit, changing clothes and showering when they get home, avoiding sharing food, among other steps.
Moose Lake has installed new hand washing stations in the facility. Four hand-washing sinks were installed in the lobby entrance to the facility and one hand washing station was installed at the facility truck gate entrance. All individuals are required to wash their hands when entering and exiting the facility. Two additional hand-washing stations for the offender population were placed in the facility’s main hallways. Offender restrooms and kitchenettes also have sinks to wash hands. All individuals (staff and offenders) are encouraged to wash their hands frequently throughout the day. Staff are required to wash their hands when they arrive at work and when they leave for the day.
Two cloth barrier masks have been distributed to all incarcerate individuals at DOC facilities, and all staff have been given and are required to wear masks. Each person has been given instructions for how to care for the mask, how to put it on, and how to take it off safely. The DOC follows Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for when and how personal protective equipment is used.
Distance learning plans and programs are being implemented for education and treatment programs. The timeline for implementation is forthcoming. A limited number of inmates are working in the kitchen, and important work continues with MINNCOR inmates sewing barrier masks. There is no co-mingling of these inmates, and social distancing and hand washing are strictly enforced.
The gym is currently being set up as a step-down area for inmates who had COVID-19 symptoms but that have now resolved. Per CDC recommendations, inmates will step down for 7 days in the gym, and then return to general population.
The DOC has distributed barrier face covers for all DOC staff and all people incarcerated in our facilities. Instructions are being given for how to wear and maintain the masks. The expectation is for staff and incarcerated people to wear masks when out in public areas and not in their offices or cells. These masks are meant to be source control and to act as a “catcher’s mitt” to protect other people from particles that could be released from the mouth or nose of the person wearing the mask. They are not the same as an N95 respirator, which is designed to protect the person wearing it.
For MCF-Moose Lake, our mitigation efforts have proven to have a real impact on containing the spread of COVID-19. Moving forward, in coordination with MDH, wearing an N95 is no longer necessary for all staff daily at MCF-Moose Lake. All staff are still required to wear barrier masks. Effective May 12, MCF- Moose Lake ceased utilization of N95s with the exception of:
• Escorting symptomatic offenders
• Special duties/hospital runs/transports
• Making rounds in the isolation unit
• Making rounds in the step down unit
• Health services staff having direct contact
Staff at MCF-Willow River will continue wearing N95 masks.
Barrier masks are not a substitute for social distancing and proper hand washing, which remain the most important steps to take.
Each facility has the ability to isolate and/or quarantine inmates, if necessary, when they exhibit symptoms.
Individuals who report not feeling well with symptoms similar to COVID-19 are evaluated by a medical professional and tested when meeting the criteria outlined by MDH and the CDC. Every effort is being made to isolate those showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
All individuals receive medical care needed to manage their symptoms, including medicine to help ease the symptoms, and anyone requiring hospital level of care would be transported to an area hospital.
Social distancing practices as well as handwashing continue to be an important measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Our health staff have specific protocols for how to engage when an incarcerated person exhibits symptoms that might be consistent with COVID-19. Because those symptoms are similar to other influenza like illnesses, we have long had protocols in place that call for use of personal protective equipment and isolation/quarantine when a flu-like case is suspected. We have updated these protocols, with guidance from the Department of Health, to ensure they are appropriate for possible COVID-19 cases.
We also work closely with the Department of Health to conduct contact tracing within the facility when any staff or inmate is confirmed positive for COVID-19 by testing.
We are taking a number of steps to do everything we can to prevent COVID-19 from coming into facilities while also adapting our operations with the belief that there’s a chance it might already be in a facility. Every person entering any DOC facility has a mandatory screening for existing symptoms and recent travel. Those who are experiencing certain symptoms identified by health experts are required to go home. They cannot return until they are cleared by a doctor. In particular, the facilities are screening all staff. If staff have traveled to a level 3 Travel Health Notice country, they must stay home for 14 days from the time they left an area with a widespread, ongoing community spread and practice social distancing. Additionally, staff must also be sent home if they are experiencing a new, acute condition within the last 14 days such as fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath. We are also implementing processes to limit admissions to only certain facilities and are implementing intensified screening, observation, and isolation protocols for new intakes.
We have also installed new hand-washing stations at the entrances to each facility. Every person entering the facility is required to wash their hands immediately when they enter. Additionally, MINNCOR produced new sanitizing stations that have been placed at strategic points throughout facilities to avoid cross-contamination between separate units. We have also distributed additional soap so every inmate can wash their hands frequently.
We are also identifying medically high-risk inmates and reorganizing some living situations to better protect health.
With guidance from the Department of Health, facilities are developing their own individual plans to keep facility programming and other activity operational for as long as possible, while implementing conditions that allow for as much social distancing as possible. This includes education, recreation, flag time, work assignments, treatment, and other programs.
And health staff have updated protocols for handling potential cases of COVID-19 if someone is experiencing those symptoms.
It is also critical inmates do what is in their power to help keep themselves healthy. We are encouraging everyone to follow good hygiene practices, to clean their cells regularly, and to practice social distancing when possible, including during flag time and rec.
The focus of all of us is minimizing risk of COVID-19 exposure and protecting safety and life. We are looking at all available tools to protect the health and safety of our staff, the people incarcerated, and those under supervision. We are exploring ways we can manage the population of incarcerated people – that includes impacting the number of people incarcerated and thinking about ways we can manage the living arrangements inside the facilities. The Commissioner has authority to grant conditional medical release and to grant work release status to those who qualify.
Under Minn. Stat. § 244.05, subd. 8, the commissioner of corrections has the authority to place adult inmates on conditional medical release before they have reached their supervised release date if they suffer from a grave medical condition and their release poses no threat to the public. Because COVID-19 presents a new threat to the health of people with particular medical conditions, adult inmates who previously would not have qualified for conditional medical release may do so now if their underlying medical condition puts them at risk of grave harm from COVID-19. In recognition of this new threat, the Department of Corrections (DOC) has created a process through which adult inmates who have a serious medical condition that puts them at higher risk of grave harm from COVID-19 can apply for early release. This process will temporarily replace existing DOC policy concerning medical release related to COVID-19. More information about this application process can be found here: https://mn.gov/doc/community-supervision/covid-19-conditional-medical-release-process/ Please note, applications MUST be signed by the individual applicants, even if family members or loved ones have powers of attorney over various financial or property matters.
The Commissioner is also actively considering how he can exercise work release authority in a way that protects communities but that also helps to minimize risk for those who are incarcerated. More information will be posted once available.
We understand the concern felt by family and friends of those incarcerated in Minnesota. We are working hard to keep those incarcerated in our facilities safe and minimize the risk of and exposure to COVID-19 and are taking medical conditions into consideration for all inmates. We are working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health and following their protocols for isolation, quarantine, and testing related to COVID-19. We are identifying medically high-risk inmates and are planning for the possibility of reorganizing some living situations to better protect everyone from potential infection.
We are unable to share private medical information about individual inmates with the public. If an incarcerated individual has signed a release of information for a particular person to be provided with medical information, those authorized can contact the facility and ask to speak to the release of information health services contact. Should an inmate be transferred to a hospital for treatment, at that point, families are notified.
When a staff member at MCF-Red Wing was confirmed positive for covid, we notified all the families of the youth of the situation and how the DOC is handling the situation.
We encourage all to stay in contact with friends and family and urge them to share any deterioration in their health with DOC medical staff.
While each county is preparing its own response to this pandemic, the DOC is closely coordinating with them. DOC leadership speaks multiple times per week with leadership at the county jails to collaborate on efforts and share best practices during the pandemic. All jails are held to the same standards laid out in Minnesota Administrative Rules Chapter 2911.
In an effort to slow/reduce the spread of the COVID 19 virus, and consistent with the Department of Corrections rules which govern Adult Corrections Facilities, many jail facilities have suspended certain rule provisions related to visiting. For example, Douglas County indicated they were going to suspend the rule provision due to close proximity of visitors in their video visitation area. The Department of Corrections has approved all jail and prison facilities to suspend on-site visiting to assist in slowing the spread of the virus. We have provided a strong recommendation for facilities to provide alternative resources, such as remote video visitation, extended phone privileges, etc., when doing so in light of social distancing and enhanced cleaning needs.
Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) - Willow River is a minimum security boot camp program mandated by the Legislature in 1992 that allows non-violent offenders who qualify to earn early release. DOC executive leadership suspended facility-to-facility transfers for CIP to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, CIP intakes are not occurring at the Willow River and Togo sites. However, current CIP participants are still graduating from the program and releasing to the community on schedule. CIP is a valued and important program for eligible incarcerated individuals. The DOC is continuing to evaluate the health and safety involved in transfers and will reevaluate the CIP program in light of any developments. CIP intake will resume as soon as it is safe to do so.
Incarcerated workers continue to receive pay for the work hours completed. Current circumstances may result in some temporary changes to work programming and other services. We recognize the current “no work, no pay” policy may create a hardship, and are taking steps to minimize the impact as much as possible. The DOC issued this linked memo to all adults incarcerated in our facilities detailing the modified programming on April 6, 2020.
For instance, the DOC made the decision to suspend our work crews with projects in the community in order to be proactive in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in community as well as in our facilities. Those crews have all been offered replacement work that does not put them in community. Many of our crew members continue to be productive in the prisons, working on various projects on the prison grounds. We greatly appreciate the flexibility that our staff and crew members have shown. All staff and those incarcerated have been advised to be mindful of social distancing, proper hand-washing, and other precautions recommended by the Department of Health.
As far as DOC is aware, most halfway houses have temporarily suspended visiting and pass activity in the community, in an attempt to protect them and minimize contact with the public due to COVID-19.
Each of the DOC’s work release contracted halfway houses and jails make their own decisions regarding intake and programming. Jails and halfway houses have the option of denying our work release referrals. DOC contracted jails and halfway houses are making programming decisions based on information received from a variety of sources, including Department of Health, local county health departments, community feedback, and corrections. Program modifications are being made to ensure the safety and security of our work releasees, staff, and the general public, as a whole. There are men and women on work release who are essential employees and continue to go to work each day. Some of the essential employers are currently hiring and employ criminal-justice impacted people. Work releasees may also continue to job seek or prepare for job seeking with the assistance of staff. Various contracted facilities are still able to assist our work releasees with applying for jobs online, phone interviews, and working on resumes. Many are also attempting to keep our work releasees engaged with in-house programming and groups, when possible.
Work release allows for eligible incarcerated persons to serve up to 8 months of their incarceration time in the community prior to their supervision release. Accountability of work release participants is always maintained. Safety for all is paramount. Work release participants who are nearing the end of sentence and have suitable, available release addresses are considered for release to those approved residences. This is known as Phase 2 of Work Release. To increase social distancing measures within correctional facilities due to COVID-19, effective April 14, DOC is temporarily expanding the work release program to allow for eligible, incarcerated individuals within 90 days of release to apply for work release to private residences. DOC is in the process of gathering information on those individuals with suitable release plans, who meet established criteria, to be released under this expanded program.
Yes, a request for notification can be submitted at any point during an individual’s incarceration or while they are on community supervision. To register for notification, please complete a Request for Notification form. The form can be found here. The Department of Corrections must receive a completed form in order to provide notification. The request would also include notifications related to any early release as a result of DOC’s COVID-19 response. Contact DOC Victim Assistance staff at 1-800-657-3830 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Department of Corrections utilizes Minnesota Haven to provide notification and information regarding those sentenced to the Commissioner of Corrections. Haven provides victims and members of the public with information and support specific to:
• Notification of custody status while incarcerated or on community supervised release;
• Information critical for safety and security planning and an opportunity to request safety planning services;
• Opportunity to request assistance in reporting continued abusive behaviors or protective order violations;
• Opportunities to provide input to corrections staff throughout the incarceration and community supervision period;
• Opportunities to access information about corrections processes as they relate to facility security, programming and reentry decisions including paroling decisions for life sentenced individuals;
• Opportunities to inquire about restitution collection and repayment;
• And opportunity to inquire and request to participate in victim/community member initiated restorative justice processes.
Yes, notifications regarding custody status changes are sending as normal. If you need to update your contact information, Contact DOC Victim Assistance staff at 1-800-657-3830 or email@example.com
The corrections setting absolutely presents a unique challenge for social distancing. Every correctional facility in Minnesota is different when it comes to living units and the possibility of social distancing. But our commitment across the department is to keep facility programming and other activity operational for as long as possible. This includes education, recreation, flag time, work assignments, treatment and other programs.
Each facility is working with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health to create and update facility-specific plans to keep programming open and allow for social distancing.
We are looking at the population and exploring possibilities to reorganize some living situations to spread people out and minimize risk, especially for those who are medically more at risk.
DOC facilities have implemented Stay with Unit procedures that include modified program schedules to allow for social distancing, while providing for phone and video access, recreation, and alternative delivery of education and therapeutic programming. These are not decisions that are made lightly or without exhausting all possible options.
The goals of the modified program schedules are simple:
• To control spread by increasing the ability to practice social distancing;
• To provide a sense of stability and opportunities for engagement; and
• Containment through the discontinuation of cross living unit programs and activities.
Due to limitations in the ability to social distance with certain programs and need to suspend volunteers from coming into facilities, DOC has discontinued barbering services, religious services, and contact sports. Just like programming, ceremonies, and rituals are canceled outside in the community due to safety concerns, we are unable to continue them inside – despite wishing it was not necessary. We are continuing to explore options and ways to continue providing alternate forms of services. For instance, on Monday, March 30, DOC rolled out an extended learning program for interested/eligible inmates. The DOC is also following MDH guidance for isolation and quarantine of suspected cases, minimizing the potential exposure of other staff and inmates to possible cases.
We are also taking aggressive steps to prevent COVID-19 from entering the facilities. This is the reason for the hand washing stations newly installed at the entrance of every facility and for screening anyone entering a MN correctional facility. We are dealing with a dynamic situation that means recommendations can change on a daily if not hourly basis.
There will definitely be times where any given facility experiences some form lock down – whether for security reasons or otherwise. But we are not locking down the facilities en masse as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our goal across the department and all facilities is to keep programming and other activity operational for as long as possible. This includes education, recreation, flag time, work assignments, treatment, and other programs. Though how those programs are implemented is likely to look different than usual for some time.
We are learning from the experiences of people around the world and are consulting with public health experts, DOC commissioners and directors in other states, the American Correctional Association, and others to ensure we have the best information to make these decisions.
Each facility is going through periodic lock downs to varying degrees for deep cleaning and to help the planning process.
But even in states where mandatory “stay at home” policies are in place, the general public is not locked in bedrooms 24 hours a day. Similarly, in our facilities, we do not plan to completely lock down simply because the environment creates a challenge for social distancing. There might come a time where more restrictions are necessary. But we are not there yet.
That’s why each facility is working with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health to create and update facility-specific plans to keep programming open while allowing for social distancing as much as possible. That might mean modified forms of certain programs. It might mean smaller groups going at different times to allow more spacing. It certainly means avoiding mass movements. But it does not mean restricting all movement in the facilities.
All incarcerated individuals are now provided two free phone calls a week, as well as one free 15 minute video visit. As much as we would like to increase these opportunities, the duration and amounts are limited. Since in person visitation has been canceled, more incarcerated individuals are relying on phone calls. In order to accommodate large numbers of people who need to talk to their families, while also not overcrowding around the phones and allowing for disinfecting protocols between uses (which we have hired additional staff for), we do have to limit the number of phone calls people are allowed during this time.
As of April 1, any person wishing to conduct a video visit with an inmate will be provided one free 15 minute video visit per week. Additional 15 minute visits can be purchased for $3.50, a rate that is 30 percent lower than the normal cost.
Youth residents at MCF-Red Wing already receive two free phone calls per week, and now they are also receiving two free five minute calls. In addition to the available J-Pay video visiting, Red Wing youth are being offered parental visits through other technology free of charge, which is being coordinated by case managers at the facility.
The week is Tuesday to Monday. So the two calls reset at midnight Monday night/Tuesday morning every week.
The phone system has not changed. Phone calls are still placed as usual. There is simply an added option at the beginning to use a free call. If a free call is used, it will disconnect after five minutes.
We are sorry you are having complications connected through JPay. We are troubleshooting technical issues on our end, meaning the issue is likely the strength of your internet speed. We have reached out to JPay and they believe these issues are linked to the internet being overloaded these days. In particular, we have seen that customers on a dish-based internet service provider have very slow upload speeds. One suggestion may be to set your call for a different time that may be less of a network load.
If you have not already done this, try running the bandwidth and equipment tests at the JPay site BEFORE you log on for your next visit. The instructions are clear on how to run these tests and include FAQs to troubleshoot a visit. The information can be found to at our public site: https://mn.gov/doc/family-visitor/visiting-information/video-visitation/.
Additionally, your loved one may have offense-based restrictions that do not allow for video visitation. Individuals with certain visiting restrictions are not allowed video visitation. For example, for someone with a no contact with minors restriction, we can ensure that there are no minors visiting them in person, but we cannot do the same during a video conference call. The details of the restrictions for video visitation are listed in DOC Policy 302.022: http://www.doc.state.mn.us/DocPolicy2/html/DPW_Display_TOC.asp?Opt=302.022.htm. DOC is having discussions with staff and community partners about possible strategies that may allow for more access to video visitation while also keeping the chances of further victimization low. We will update this site if anything changes in light of these considerations.
We understand that this is not ideal given the current circumstances when we have had to suspend in person visitation and can be a huge strain on families and loved ones in our facilities. Please continue to use the two free phone calls per week option discussed in detail in these FAQs.