Minnesota state prisons’ double-bunking may be a violation of the treatment of prisoners under the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela rules) and the standards defined by the American Correctional Association (ACA), according to the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder.
Crowding multiple people in a 7×11 cell, smaller than a normal residential bathroom, can lead to multiple problems, including health issues and safety concerns, said the June 21 article.
Double-bunking is sometimes called “crowding” (placing two incarcerated people in one cell), and can cause stress, physical and mental health problems, and suicides, according to Canada’s Union of Correctional Officers.
Prisoners may inflict self-harm or injury to others to avoid double-bunking, according to a 2020 auditor’s report
on Safety in Correctional Facilities, said the article. The report also said that double-bunking can be a breeding
ground for an increase in gang membership.
On March 21, 2021, James Francis Howard, 56, died a violent death while incarcerated in Minnesota’s Rush City prison. Fellow prisoners attributed the death to double-bunking, said the article.
COVID-19 spread to 977 of the 1,290 incarcerated people at Stillwater, Minnesota’s oldest prison, the article said. At least 12 deaths and approximately4,000 COVID cases were reported throughout the rest of the Minnesota prison system, reported the article.
The overcrowding in Minnesota prisons can be attributed to legislative and policy changes in harsher sentencing, such as an increase in statutory maximum and mandatory sentences, and revocation of parole said the article. “In 2018, two in five prison admissions were returns from supervision, and the vast majority of that group – 88% – had
not committed a new crime but only violated the conditions of supervision,” reported the ACLU.