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New prison protocols renew focus on safety

MOOSE  LAKE, MN– New protocols have popped up across Minnesota to try to keep prison employees and inmates safe. Wednesday we got the rare opportunity to tour the Moose Lake Men’s prison where there’s a renewed focus on safety, but also a push to help inmates be prepared to succeed in life when they eventually leave.

Moose Lake Men’s prison officials aren’t blind to the challenges of running a prison.

“We’re not num to having incidences of offender on offender assaults here. If I were to quantify, maybe one or two a week maybe three on a bad week,” said Nate Knutson, Moose Lake warden.

That’s why there’s programming and protocols in place to mitigate dangerous situations

“It’s conflict resolution among the offender population. If two offenders have issues we’ll put them together and we’ll navigate the conversation whether it’s a unit lieutenant, whether it’s an officer, whether it’s the warden. Whoever is engaged at the time,” said Knutson.

Outside of keeping employees and inmates safe, prison officials try to help over 1,000 male inmates leave better than they came, mostly through educational and vocational programs.

“It’s very satisfying seeing some of these guys come in not being able to pound a nail and leaving here being able to frame a small playhouse or a house for that matter,” said Knutson.”

“About 125 in our garment shop, about 35 in our print shop, about 150 in a shop where we do some light assembly, we also do upholstery here now, said Al Larson, prison employee.

“The guys come out here they work hard. We’ve had great success out here. The guys are really innovative. It’s like anything if you let the people do their job they’ll surprise you with the results,” said Larson.

Right now officials said Governor Walz’s newly-proposed budget offers $111 million from the Department of corrections, money that would go toward helping Moose Lake prison solidify its foundation of security and add pro-social programming.

“Which ultimately we believe can help give some relief to the facilities by helping us to not return short-term violators back to the facilities. But to keep them in the community, better manage them, better supervise them there,” said Commissioner Paul Schnell, with Minnesota Department of Corrections.

And looking toward the future, they’re hoping to reduce the prison population altogether.

“How is it that we keep young people in school? How is it that we keep young people who are going down the wrong path from entering the criminal justice system in a substantial way,” said Schnell.

Commissioner Schnell said 95 percent of inmates will live in our communities again someday.

CeCe Gaines

Multimedia Journalist

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