ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - More than a week after the death of a corrections officer at the Stillwater prison, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections says the prison remains on lockdown status.
Under lockdown, the inmates are only allowed to leave their cells for showers once every three days, according to sources. The commissioner acknowledges the situation is not ideal.
“Lockdown is not the preferred state for Stillwater, that we have to get back operating,” said Department of Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy. “We’re going to do that thoughtfully.”
Commissioner Roy says the lockdown won't be lifted until there's a plan in place for staffing and security moving forward. Until then, inmates face restrictions on showers, how their meals are delivered and receiving mail and visits from loved ones. A DOC spokesperson says all offenders have had showers this week.
One inmate's family spoke to Fox 9 anonymously, sharing a letter from their loved one who outlined the conditions at the prison.
“Just heart-broken, no matter what anyone does in life, they’re still human and they should be treated as humans,” said a family member.
This family is among many filing complaints with the central office. Commissioner Roy says he understands the concerns.
“We’re going to do that sensitive to the needs of staff and I fully accept those concerns for those families, we hear them as well,” he said. “And we’re going to do our best to get back operating.”
Commissioner Roy grew emotional during the news conference - a sign of the toll Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm's death has taken on the department. He says at least three officers have quit after the attack and the number on leave has reached into the double digits.
The union weighed in on Roy’s comments at the press conference with a statement to Fox 9 saying in part, “We will not let Joseph Gomm die in vain. We want to ensure that every person who works in corrections can come home safely, and that we can keep our institutions and communities safe."
DOC officials say the well-being of those officers is their first priority as they try to bring things back to some state of normal at Stillwater prison.
“We can’t quit working,” said Commissioner Roy. “We have a mission to serve the state and we’re going to do it.”
Commissioner Roy says he will not resign in the face of an online petition launched after the attack.