Dept. of Corrections members urge legislators to establish safer staffing protocols
Nearly 30 MAPE members from the Dept. of Corrections had a full day of advocacy at the Capitol, Wednesday. Members from correctional facilities and field services around the state shared personal stories of what it’s like to work in high-stakes positions when staffing shortages abound.
“I could tell you a long sappy story as to why I got into corrections, but the more intriguing question is ‘Why do I stay?’” Melissa Peters, DOC Corrections Agent from Wright County, told legislators during a round table discussion. “We are in the community … building relationships so that we can provide resources that are not always provided to us, but are expected from us.”
Most people convicted of felony offenses in Minnesota are sentenced to probation rather than prison. Consequently, the average caseload for someone in Peters’ position in Minnesota is approximately 100 offenders when the recommended maximum is 60.
Caseloads continue to rise for many Corrections staff while open positions remain unfilled due to uncompetitive wages, lack of agency funding and difficulty in recruiting new staff quickly enough to offset turnover.
“I work with some of the hardest working people you will ever meet who get the job done even with chronic understaffing levels,” Ryan Patrick said. “During my 12 years of employment with the state, I would estimate that we have been fully staffed approximately one-third of it.”
Employees like Peters and Patrick are committed to the work they do and believe in the value of helping a population that others may ignore.
“The population I work with is often forgotten about and underserved, yet they have a dramatic impact on our communities,” MAPE member Robin Windsperger testified. “My coworkers and I have chosen to work in a unique environment with a high-risk population because it is important. We put ourselves at risk daily to help people change and to make Minnesota safer.”
Prior to the round table discussion, Windsperger testified before the House Corrections Division Committee, sharing her experiences as a Clinical Program Therapist at the Lino Lakes Facility.
The Committee heard HF1615, a bill that would allow for additional support and clinical staff funding in Minnesota Correctional facilities. Bill author Rep. Dan Wolgamott was joined by half a dozen additional legislators during the roundtable.
“It’s empowering for us sitting in committee hearings and putting bills together to hear firsthand your stories and see you at the Capitol keeping us informed,” Wolgamott said. “We want to work with you to make sure we’re doing right by you.”