Minn. COs hopeful conditions will improve under new commissioner

The state's new corrections commissioner acknowledges that they will face many challenges before the system gets better

By CorrectionsOne Staff

STILLWATER, Minn. — Minnesota corrections officers are facing many challenges after a deadly year for COs.

Stillwater prison has lost 71 correctional officers since Officer Joe Gromm died in July after being killed by an offender, CBS Minnesota reports.

“I’ve lost sleep. I worry it will happen to one of my fellow officers and when I get to the point where I think I’m past it, it comes up again,” Sgt. John Hillyard said. “I want to make sure in the future our officers have the tools and the resources they need to deal with this as we move forward into this year.”

Hillyard and his fellow officers believe conditions will improve under the state’s new Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell, who doesn’t deny that there are obstacles to overcome.

“We’re in a really difficult spot,” Schnell said. “Getting people to come into this type of work and making sure people feel safe in doing that has got to be a priority. We have to invest in the safety and security before we start really digging into the ways in which we move forward.”

Schnell said safety needs to be the foundation while prisons increase security measures, adding cameras to monitor core areas as well as other things he wouldn't disclose.

He also says he can’t start looking at the big issues until open positions are filled and staff levels are elevated. Then he can start looking at issues such as prison reform.

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