Moose Lake Correctional Facility working to keep staff, inmates safe during COVID-19

Ryan Juntti
Updated: April 07, 2020 11:18 PM

An outbreak of COVID-19 cases at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility is causing a lot of concern among staff members, inmates, and their families.


There have been nine lab-confirmed cases and another 22 presumptive positive cases.

Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell says they are working with the Minnesota Department of Health to figure out the appropriate measures to take during the outbreak to help slow the spread.

“This is unprecedented times, I think for all of us," said Schnell.

Schnell will admit that navigating through COVID-19 has been a learning experience, but he says they are doing all they can to contain the virus within the walls of the Moose Lake Correctional Facility.

“I do believe that we have taken steps to mitigate, minimize risk, although I don’t think there will ever be a day, at least in the near or immediate future when we can ever totally wipe out the risk," said Schnell.

Schnell says one of the measures they are taking is providing both staff and inmates with protective masks.

“When our staff are having contact with someone who is known to be, or presumed positive, then higher levels of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) are used in those cases,” said Schnell.

Additionally, Schnell says inmates who are confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 are moved to a containment area away from the general population. They are moved back into the general population when they are asymptomatic for a certain amount of days. 

“It’s not a disciplinary measure. It just happens to be a place where we can do better with containment,” said Schnell.

They are also working to expand their work release program for more inmates who have 90 days or less left of their sentence.

“We want people to be absolutely aware that we're not just opening the door to the prisons, and letting people out. We're using a long-standing practice and program. We’re just expanding that program's use, in order to buy some additional capacity within our correctional facilities," said Schnell.

Through it all, he says the goal is keeping both staff and inmates safe.

“We want to do right by Minnesota. We want to do right by the people that are incarcerated, and absolutely we want to do right by our staff, and try and keep everybody safe as we move through and navigate the response to COVID-19,” said Schnell.

Schnell says all prison transfers between Moose Lake and Willow River prisons have also been suspended.

St. Cloud Correctional Facility is where all new prisoners will first be sent, but Schnell says to avoid overcrowding there, prisoners will need to be sent to other prisons around the state, including Moose Lake Correctional Facility.

“We will make attempts to do that in a really thoughtful way that minimizes risk of exposure or transfer of exposure,” said Schnell.  


Ryan Juntti

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