After around 100 convicts in one housing unit refused to return to their cells, a Minnesota prison has been placed on emergency lockdown, and members of a crisis negotiation team have been activated, according to the state Department of Corrections on Sunday.
The situation is “currently stable,” and the reason convicts “are refusing to return to their cells remains unclear.” The Special Operations Response Team was also sent in “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a spokesperson for the facility.
However, Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) spokesman Michelle Gross claimed in an interview that the incident was brought on by the fact that jailers had been without access to fresh water, ice, and even showers for many days due to understaffing.
“They’re saying it’s hotter than hell in there, and the water in the cells is brown,” Gross said. “The inmates have been melting ice for drinking water, but with short staffing, there’s not enough to go around.”
Sunday’s “incident is endemic and highlights the truth behind the operations of the [Minnesota] Department of Corrections with chronic understaffing,” said the head of the union representing staffers and corrections officers at Stillwater.
Correctional facilities, according to the union, “cannot have transformational offender programming without sufficient facility security.”
“Without more staffing in our correctional facilities with talented people, we will continue down this unacceptable road of staff assaults, offenders controlling sections of our prisons, and more,” said Bart Andersen, interim executive director of AFSCME Council 5.
Two officers at the Stillwater Correctional Facility who spoke to the press assured that they were safe in a secure control room and in contact with facility personnel. No recorded injuries have been reported.