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Faribault inmates share how regular lockdowns take a toll on their mental health

Faribault prison inmates struggle with lockdowns amid staffing shortage
Faribault prison inmates struggle with lockdowns amid staffing shortage 02:28

FARIBAULT, Minn. — Inmates at Minnesota's largest prison are sharing how regular lockdowns are impacting life inside. 

They're not acting up. The Department of Corrections says there's just simply not enough staff to keep an eye on them. 

DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell says the prison in Faribault is down 42 officers right now.

Multiple people incarcerated there told WCCO that as a result, they can be stuck in their cells anywhere from a few hours to much longer than that.

Programming gets canceled too, which Corbyn Bot, who's 13 years into a 30-year sentence, describes as "education, jobs...classes that we take, group therapy sessions."

"A lot of us are trying to restructure our lives, be rehabilitated," Bot said. "We don't want to be here."

Another inmate, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, says the lockdowns take a toll on mental health.

"It really does play major mind games," he said. "I'm not able to call my wife. It does raise the stress level of everybody, and when that can really push people over the edge."

READ MORE: 1 Hennepin County deputy shot, another injured while executing search warrant in Minnetonka, authorities say

Schnell says the lockdowns are for everyone's safety, as the prison works to rebuild its officer ranks.

"Faribault over the last several years has had a considerable number of retirements, and this is just a reality that's affected law enforcement," he said.

Schnell says DOC salaries are finally competitive with other law enforcement positions, and 25 new officers are expected to start next month.

"One of the reasons we have this rolling lockdown because we don't want to force people on overtime as much," Schnell said. "That affects our ability to retain staff."

The lockdowns aren't on a schedule and don't come with any warning, which is difficult on family members wanting to visit.

Elizabeth Scott lives about five hours from Faribault and is reluctant to plan a drive to see her husband. She says phone and video calls are also restricted during lockdowns.

"It's really nerve-wracking because you worry about their health, safety, what's going on," Scott said. "It's stressful. It adds a lot of stress to any kind of relationship."

The DOC says the staffing issues extend to about half the state's prisons right now.

Schnell says he expects the system to be 95 percent fully staffed with officers by the end of next month.

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