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Mankato lawmaker hosts tour of Stillwater facility ahead of bill to increase staffing, safety in Minnesota prisons

(Mankato, MN) –  Minnesota State Representative Jack Considine (D-19B) recently hosted a tour of the Stillwater prison for the House Corrections sub-committee as he prepares to introduce a bill that aims to improve safety at state prisons.

The Joseph Gomm Bill is named for the corrections officer who was killed by an inmate during an attack at the prison last summer.  Considine, who was employed at the St. Peter Regional Treatment facility for six years, called for increased staffing immediately after Gomm’s murder. Gomm was the first recorded death of an on-duty prison guard in the state.

“Staffing levels are extremely low.  We are hearing stories of people can’t get vacations, being forced into overtime week after week, people coming in when they’re sick because they know they’re really short,” Considine said during an interview with Southern Minnesota News Monday.

The purpose for the tour, Considine says, was for state lawmakers to get a first-hand look inside the prisons so the legislature can determine how to best support corrections workers.   Considine says the entire House Corrections sub-committee – which he chairs – was invited.  But according to Considine, it was the only the five Democrats that showed up – and lawmakers were outnumbered roughly three to one by the media.

“My hope is that we’ll have bipartisan support,” Considine said to SMN. “The three members that are on my committee are all reasonable people; I think they understand and recognize the need.  But yes, I am expecting we’ll get bipartisan support.”

A sub-committee meeting was scheduled to take place at the prison this week, but frigid weather forced lawmakers to cancel the trip, which has been rescheduled for next Wednesday.  Considine says he expects to drop the bill immediately following that meeting on Wednesday.

“My hope is that people demand that we make things safer for the staff and the residents,” Considine said.  “and that when they look at all the things that we’re proposing, they’re going to demand that we make our communities safer, too.”

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