Stillwater prison goes into lockdown after protest

By Peter Cox – Stillwater Gazette
Published: Monday, January 11, 2010 2:02 PM CST

BAYPORT – The Minnesota Correctional Facility – Stillwater was forced to go into lockdown mode Sunday afternoon after inmates in a unit there refused to return to their cells.

Around 280 inmates were coming from the dining hall in the B-West unit of the prison, in which cells are double-bunked, when they began protesting the unit’s rules, said Shari Burt, spokeswoman with the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC).

About 150-200 of the prisoners refused to return to their cells around 1 p.m.

Prison staff responded with its Special Operations Response Teams and help from other prisons.

It wasn’t until 3:40 p.m. that the prisoners complied and returned to their cells.

“Offenders peacefully returned to their cells,” Burt said. “Staff didn’t use any force.”

She said that no injuries were reported by staff or prisoners, and there was minimal property damage.

“There was no structural damage,” she said. “Mostly it was just making a mess.”

The entire prison was in still lockdown as of Monday afternoon.

Lockdown means that offenders are in their cells all day. No programming and no movement are allowed during a lockdown and prisoners are given meals in their cells.

Burt said the protest had to do with the day-to-day operational rules of the unit, including issues such as the amount of time prisoners are allowed out of their cells.

Prisoners that have programming, education or work a job can be out of their cell from 6:10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. About one third of prisoners in the unit that protested are idle during the day, meaning they get very little time out of their cell.

Burt says the prisoners can be idle if they’ve not been cooperative, if no jobs are available and if they are not involved in any programming.

Staff members will be reviewing the incident, the response to it and the issues raised by the inmates, Burt said.

The prison was locked down in November of 2008 after a fight. The prison has scheduled lock downs in orders to find contraband and do searches.

Copyright © 2010 – Stillwater Gazette