MN prisoners should not lose their jobs for getting medical care

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If the measure of a nation isn’t how it treats its rich and privileged but how it treats its poor and condemned, then the incarcerated, whether wrongly convicted or not, are considered the most condemned. Policies are put in place to inflict sometimes the harshest psychological punishments upon this invisible population with the 13th Amendment as a justification.

Minn. Stat. 241.01, Subd. 3a(b) and 243.23 has given authority to the Commissioner of Corrections and the Department of Corrections to create policy #204.010, “Offender Assignment and Compensation Plan.” Under B7 of this policy it reads, “Specific assignments (employment) can be held open for a maximum of ten calendar days due to medical, writ, or ‘no-fault’ absences.

Those terminated under this provision are placed on TU (Temporary Unassigned) status and are immediately eligible to apply for a job after their return. Offenders must start at the beginning step of pay scale for new assignment.

Many opt not to have surgery or their medical needs met if there’s a chance they could lose their jobs because of the above policy. Many have been on their jobs long enough to be at top pay and/or in a favorable position that they have worked up to.

For them to lose these positions and pay because of the recovery time from a needed medical procedure that was needed would be devastating on one’s psyche. Many of us don’t have outside financial help, so our employment provides a sense of stability.

My own experience with this policy happened when I had to give up a five-year job working for MinnCor. Industries and making 30% of minimum wage at the time—my take-home pay was only 3.53 an hour. Because of injuries I transferred to another job easier on my shoulders until I had surgery for rotator cuff repair. I was out of the facility for three weeks after surgery, and because I was gone longer than the 10 calendar days, I lost my job and pay.

At the time of this writing, I’ve been waiting to be rehired for three months, although I was placed at the top of the hire list. It’s for this reason individuals choose not to give up their livelihood, and the facilities are justifying their action by having the health service get people to sign waivers when individuals decline to have their much-needed procedures.

Another part of this policy (B8) is similar to the above and reads in part that if a person goes to segregation under investigation, “…Those terminated under this provision, in which all charges were dismissed, must be placed on TU status and are immediately eligible to apply for a job. The offender starts at the beginning step of pay scale for the new assignment.” 

This is wrong no matter how one may attempt to justify it.

Those within the legal and policymaking fields, please join in with those organizations that want to stop these cruel practices by the DOC. One such organization is the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a union for prisoners and their families. 

If you don’t speak for the voiceless, then who will? 

Eric Johnson 

Rush City, MN 

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