Unions support correctional facilities hit by COVID-19 outbreaks

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Chad Schmidt

Minnesota unions recently pitched in to show support for members working at state correctional facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks at Moose Lake and Willow River. The Moose Lake facility has 78 confirmed coronavirus cases among offenders and staff, and the Willow River facility has 77.

MAPE has been reaching out to members across the state to check-in to see how people are doing during the global pandemic and to find out what the union can do to help. “These are frightening and uncertain times. The least we could do for all union members working in the facilities is this small gesture of appreciation and recognition of the difficult work staff are being called to do in the correctional facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks,” MAPE Executive Director Lina Jamoul said.

During the check-in calls, members mentioned that a local church had dropped off some snacks and how much the gesture meant to members.   

MAPE joined with four other unions that also wanted to provide snacks for their members also serving at the two correctional facilities: AFSCME Council 5, Middle Management Association, MNA and State Residential Schools Education Association (SRSEA, Education Minnesota). The unions donated hundreds of energy drinks, protein bars and bags of nuts and trail mix. The signs accompanying the donations said “Way to Go! Take a break on us, You’ve earned it! Union Proud.” 

“I’m proud of MAPE for leading the way on this,” said Ryan Patrick, a clinical therapist and Local 1701 steward at the Moose Lake facility. 

“It is important for our union  to show people that we’re paying attention and checking in, especially with everything that’s going on,” Patrick added.

Near one of the frequently used hand sanitizer stations in the facility is a message board. “We have a board out there where we post letters of support and everyone sees the notes. We received messages from other facilities we put up as motivation,” Patrick said.

Photo caption: (L-R) SRSEA member Chad Schmidt delivers snacks to MN Correctional Facility-Moose Lake Associate Warden of Administration Darryl Goebel.