Minnesota Department of Corrections - Changes to Protocols Due to COVID 19

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (MN DOC) suspended all family visitation on March 13, 2020 in response to COVID-19 infection rates within the prison system (Rodgers, 2020). MN DOC resumed a revised visitation schedule with modified restrictions depending on the case load in the individual jails on October 27, 2020 (MN DOC Visting, 2020).

In person visiting is allowed at facilities with fewer than two active cases of COVID within a 14 day period (MN DOC Visting, 2020; Prison Pro, 2020). The count includes inmates and staff. If there are two or more active cases then the facility will suspend visitation. In addition to regular requirements for visitation, the MN DOC has added the following requirements:

  • Scheduling of visits at least 24 hours prior to the visit (normal requirement). Visitors must be on the pre-approved list, which is a standard requirement.
  • Visits are limited to one hour, with no extended visits available.
  • All visitors except those under the age of 2 must wear a mask and all are required to submit to temperature checks and other screening for COVID.
  • Physical contact is not permitted and all visitors must maintain social distance of six feet.
  • MN DOC has minimized the activities for children in the visiting room to reduce the amount of cleaning and risk of transmission of COVID
  • Video conferencing is available for facilities that suspend visitation when there are two or more inmates and/or employees with active COVID-19.

Minnesota initiated several programs to allow for early release of inmates to reduce prison populations. As of late August, most of these programs had been discontinued, which included:

  • C19SR = COVID-19 Sanction Reduction Program
  • C19WRP = COVID-19 Work Release Program
  • C19CMRP = COVID-19 Conditional Medical Release Program

County Jails

The following counties were selected based on population and/or position in the state.

Hennepin County, which includes the City of Minneapolis, is located in the central eastern portion of the state. The Twin City of St. Paul is located in adjacent Ramsey County but is not included in this discussion. Hennepin County Jail visitation has been suspended since March 15, 2020 (Do, 2020).

St. Louis County in the northeast corner of the state has suspended all social visitation at their jail and closed all government buildings to the public (SLCSO, 2020). The main jail is located in the City of Duluth.

Polk County, which share a border with Grand Rapids, Michigan. The jail services three counties and is referred to as the Tri-County Community Corrections, including Polk, Norman, and Red Lake Counties (TCCC, 2020). The jail has returned to limited access as of June 1, 2020 included limited on-site visitation on June 17, 2020.

Freeborn County
, which includes Albert Lea and the crossroads of Interstate 35 and 90. All visitation is conducted via video, however, onsite video conferencing is free while online video conferencing requires fees (FCSO, 2020).

Policies
Type of FacilityFamily VisitationAttorney VisitationCommissary/Money for ExpensesOther Programs
General InformationHours and Parking for VisitationInmate Property Release
State-Run Correction Facility
  • In person visitation is allowed at facilities with fewer than 2 active cases (inmates and employees)
  • Video visitation via Zoom is available for facilities that have 2 or more active cases.
  • All visitors including minors must be pre-approved and have identification, which can include birth certificates for minors.
  • Each facility has separate hours and days for visitation for different parts of each facility.
  • There is essentially no visitation allowed on State recognized holidays.
  • Videograms can be paid for through JPay.
  • Phone calls are collect calls by the inmate only.
No specific information givenNo specific information given
  • JPay is available for purchase of canteen items.
  • Confinement surcharge and restitution fees can be deducted from deposited funds.
  • MINNCOR Industries
Hennepin County
  • Social visitation is suspended since March 15, 2020. This includes volunteers and family/ friends.
  • Inmates may place collect calls
  • No contact social visitation is suspended but was offered on a first come, first serve basis.
  • Inmates can have no more than two social visits per visiting day.
  • Visitors under 18 years must be accom-panied by an adult.
  • Regular visiting hours were not posted.
  • Inmate must request release of property to another person.
  • Inmates may have one set of clothing for court hearings.
Police and attorneys can visit inmates and the jail 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
  • Deposits at the cashier or through Access-Corrections website.
  • Transaction fees only apply to deposits made after intake but do not affect money deposited for bail or final release.
  • Aggressive jail diversion program that has reduced jail population to 45% below normal operations
St. Louis County
  • Visitation suspended
  • Reliance Telephone provides pay service for phone, text, and video calling services
  • Regular visitation is Saturdays 1pm to 5pm and 6:30pm to 8:30pm; Sundays 1pm to 5pm and 6:30pm to 8:30pm; and Tuesdays 1pm to 5pm.
  • Visitation was only permitted at the main facility in Duluth.
Inmate personal property can be picked up between 8:30am and 3:30pm Monday through Friday by appointment.No specific information provided.
  • Stellar Services provides an inmate account for purchases at the commissary, phone time, and purchase of other necessities. Fees can be deducted from this account prior to inmate having access to the funds.
Polk County (Tri-County Community Corrections)
  • Limited in-person visitation allowed.
  • Video visitation encouraged
  • Volunteer led programs are suspended or conducted via Zoom.
  • Inmates are allowed two (2)- 20 minute visits daily for onsite and unlimited for off-site.
  • Onsite visitation is allowed Monday through Friday from 8am to 9am, 9:40am to 10:40am and 1pm to 4pm. No weekend or holiday visitation allowed.
  • All visits must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance.
  • Off-site and video visitation is allowed 7 days per week from 7am to 9:20pm through a pre-paid platform.
  • Limited drop off of money and prescription medications is allowed Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm. Socks and underwear is allowed during those hours on Tuesday through Friday.
  • Encouraged to use non-contact options but in-person allowed as of June 1, 2020.
  • Money can be deposited through Inmate-Canteen, in person at the kiosk, or by mail.
Inmates can have up to three changes of clothing stored for work release.
Freeborn County
  • Visitation is via video either onsite or online. Onsite is free but there is a charge for online visitation through Inmate-Canteen.
  • Visitation is limited to 2 people at a time.
  • Onsite visitation is Monday through Friday with hours designated by inmate status.
  • Online visitation is Saturday and Sunday with hours designated by inmate status.
No specific information provided.No specific information provided.
  • Inmate-Canteen provides commissary, email/text services, and visitation.
  • Deposits online or via a kiosk at the main facility.
  • Inmate-Canteen changes $8.95 for credit card processing.
  • Average pricing: Online/ offsite video conferencing is $0.49 /minute, emails are $0.25/ each, and texts are $.013/ 160 characters.

Infection Rates and Death Rates

The general trend in Minnesota is increasing with a current positivity rate of 7% (mn.gov, 2020). However, this trend appears to be accelerating. County-specific information regarding trends is not provided on the State dashboard.

Minnesota Department of Corrections (MN DOC) provides statistics for testing and inmate status by facility (MN DOC Dashboard, 2020). As of October 29, 2020, all inmates had been tested at least once. There were 2 deaths reported. Of the inmates tested since the start of the pandemic, 3% have tested positive with 40% of those infected listed as unrecovered. Five (5) of the 11 facilities have at least one positive case of COVID as of October 29, 2020. One of the methods employed to reduce rates is to release as many inmates as possible from the prisons, with a significant release between October 2019 and May 2020. This was part of a broader jail reform strategy (Rodgers, 2020).

MN DOC provides employee statistics by facility and work post. Of the confirmed and presumed positive, 49% have returned to work as of October 29, 2020. Two of the employees remain hospitalized.

County Jails

Hennepin County, which includes the City of Minneapolis, serves 22% of the state’s population and as such has the largest potential for inmates (HCSO, 2020). They aggressively test the jail population if there are suspected contact with COVID positive inmates or if exposed prior to being jailed. They have an aggressive jail diversion program with the support of the police, courts, County Attorney, and attorneys to reduce the jail population by approximately 45% from pre-pandemic levels to reduce the spread within the jail (HCSO, 2020).

St. Louis County, in a move similar to Hennepin County, has aggressively worked to release inmates from their jails to reduce jail populations due to COVID-19 pandemic (CBS3Duluth.com, 2020).

Polk County is moving towards reopening with limited visitation in the jails.

Freeborn County is moving towards reopening with limited visitation in the jails while encouraging video visitation.

Type of FacilityInfectionDeath
NumberPositivity RateNumberDeath Rate of Positive Cases
State JailsInmate1,3783%2<0.1%
EmployeeNot providedundeterminedNot providedundetermined
Hennepin CountyInmate16518.6%20Not provided
Employee>1undeterminedNot providedundetermined
St. Louis CountyInmateNot providedundeterminedNot providedundetermined
EmployeeNot providedundeterminedNot providedundetermined
Polk CountyInmateNot providedundeterminedNot providedundetermined
EmployeeNot providedundeterminedNot providedundetermined
Freeborn CountyInmateNot providedundeterminedNot providedundetermined
EmployeeNot providedundeterminedNot providedundetermined

References

  • CBS3Duluth.com. (2020, April 2). St. Louis County Jail releases low-level inmates to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Retrieved November 2, 2020 from NewsBreak: https://www.newsbreak.com/minnesota/duluth/news/1539366218117/st-louis-county-jail-releases-low-level-inmates-to-prevent-the-spread-of-covid-19
  • Do, H. (2020, March 15). Hennepin County Jail cancels social visitation due to COVID-19 outbreak. Retrieved November 2, 2020 from ABC 5 Eyewitness News, KSTP.com: Inmate
  • FCSO. (2020). Freeborn County, Minnesota. Retrieved November 2, 2020 from COVID-19 Detainee Vistation: http://www.co.freeborn.mn.us/DocumentCenter/View/5055/COVID-19-Detainee-Visitation
  • HCSO. (2020, October 30). COVID-19 in Jail News. Retrieved November 2, 2020 from Hennepin County Sheriff Office COVID-19: https://www.hennepinsheriff.org/jail-warrants/jail-information/COVID-19#:~:text=Detainees%20are%20issued%20masks%20to,employee%20screening%20process%20in%20place.
  • MN DOC Dashboard. (2020, October 29). DOC COVID-19 Dashboard. Retrieved November 1, 2020 from Minnesota Department of Corrections: https://mn.gov/doc/about/covid-19-updates/
  • MN DOC Visting. (2020, October 27). Visiting. Retrieved November 1, 2020 from Minnesota Department of Corrections: https://mn.gov/doc/family-visitor/visiting-information/
  • mn.gov. (2020, November 1). COVID-19 Dashboard Minnesota. Retrieved November 2, 2020 from Minnesota.gov: https://mn.gov/covid19/data/covid-dashboard/index.jsp
  • Prison Pro. (2020). Vistin an inmate in Minnesota. Retrieved November 1, 2020 from Prison Pro: https://www.prisonpro.com/content/visiting-inmate-minnesota
  • Rodgers, B. (2020, March 12). Department of Corrections: Prison visits suspended in Minnesota. Retrieved November 1, 2020 from ABC Eyewiness News 5: https://kstp.com/news/department-of-corrections-prison-visits-suspended-in-minnesota-coronavirus-covid19/5672371/
  • SLCSO. (2020). Sheriff Office. Retrieved November 2, 2020 from St Louis County Minnesota: https://www.stlouiscountymn.gov/departments-a-z/sheriff
  • TCCC. (2020, June 29). General Information. Retrieved November 2, 2020 from Tri-County Community Corrections: https://www.communitycorrections-tccc.org/