Stillwater Corrections Facility slowly getting back to normal operations

Nearly one month after the first corrections officer death in the line of duty

Sloane Martin
August 11, 2018 - 11:00 am

Nearly one month after a Minnesota corrections officer was killed, the Stillwater facility is slowly easing out of lockdown.

Officer Joseph Gomm died July 18 when an inmate serving time for a 2002 murder, Edward M. Johnson, allegedly attacked him with a hammer.

The prison is now transitioning back to normal operations. 

Department of Corrections spokesperson Sarah Fitzgerald says visiting and legal visits have resumed, as has canteen for hygiene and food items.

David Boehnke with the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee says the remaining offenders have been under harsh conditions including limited access to showers, laundry and time outside their cells. He cites prisoner Carlos Smith, who says they have also been subjected to searches of their cells.

"They're facing some pretty serious conditions and abuse that has nothing to do with anything that they did," Boehnke said.

Fitzgerald also said in an email to WCCO radio: "Security searches are continuing to ensure the facility is safe for staff and offenders to resume normal schedules. Throughout the lockdown, the offenders have received showers every three days, per policy, and were given hygiene bags along with linen exchange." "

State officials have addressed ways to reduce violence at prisons, including repeated calls for more funding to hire more officers.

Boehnke says there is another route: reform.

"We think the lockdown should be ended immediately, and we also think it's really important to understand causes of violence in prisons," he said. "Minnesota prisons are incredibly overcrowded. There's a lack of sufficient programming. The only way we're going to reduce prison violence is to reduce that population."

Prosecutors do not have a motive for the attack on Gomm.

Johnson is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree assault in Gromm's death, but Washington County prosecutors are seeking to convene a grand jury to have the charges raised to first-degree murder.

At least three officers have resigned after the attack, though the DOC does not disclose reasons behind personnel decisions.

Gomm is believed to be the first Minnesota corrections officer to die in the line of duty.