Daily Digest: Prison guards say they need help

Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. Here’s the Digest.

1. Corrections officers demand more help.  The union representing corrections officers in Minnesota prisons demanded the state hire more staff to address what it calls unsafe conditions. The AFSCME Council 5 Correctional Policy Committee said Wednesday in a news conference that the conditions that led to the death of Officer Joseph Gomm last month persist. Gomm was allegedly attacked and killed by an inmate in an industrial area of Stillwater prison on July 18. Authorities say the lone suspect, Edward Muhammad Johnson, has been moved to the prison in Oak Park Heights. The correctional officers who make up the policy committee within AFSCME said in a statement that “assaults on staff have skyrocketed since January.” They also listed staffing levels at Stillwater, a close-security facility of four officers for 280 inmates in some blocks and at Moose Lake “we can have 400 inmates with two staff in the yard.” (MPR News)

2. Minneapolis council votes for more power over police department. After a tense, marathon meeting that laid bare community unrest with government leaders, members of the Minneapolis City Council narrowly pushed forward a controversial proposal Wednesday night to take some power over the Police Department away from the mayor. Dozens of activists filled the council chambers and dominated the five-hour-long meeting, interrupting others by speaking out of turn, calling council members “cowards” and “trash” and demanding wholesale overhaul of the Police Department. “Get your corporate check and run!” one audience member shouted as Council Member Abdi Warsame tried to explain why he didn’t support the amendment. “This is your last term!” The debate over whether ceding some police governance to the council would create more accountability came after two officers fatally shot Thurman Blevins, a black man in north Minneapolis, in June. (Star Tribune)

3. The ads are starting to pile up. There are a lot of political ads hitting the airwaves, and most of them mention Tim Pawlenty. Minnesota’s August 14 primary election is officially two weeks away, and candidates are releasing television spots to make a final plea to partisan voters to get out to support their campaigns. It’s an unusually busy primary season in Minnesota, with an open race for governor, attorney general, U.S. Senate and several high-profile congressional seats attracting huge fields of candidates. The primary winners in each party move on to the general election in November. Pawlenty, the former two-term governor, is running to return to his old job and released his second ad in the race Wednesday. But his Republican-endorsed primary challenger, Jeff Johnson, also released a 30-second ad that directly goes after Pawlenty. The former governor’s time in office is also mentioned in an ad released Wedneday for Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who is running in a DFL primary for the open 5th District in Congress. (MPR News)

4. Law orders faster testing of sexual assault evidence. Minnesota law enforcement agencies now must collect rape kits within 10 days and submit the kits for testing in another 60 days when a victim requests it, under a new state law. The law, which took effect Wednesday, aims to reform procedures in handling sexual assault rape kits. It comes in response to a 2015 Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension audit that found a statewide backlog of 3,482 untested rape kits in police storage. “The goal of this particular legislation with this very large working group of about 30 organizations is to provide victims with respect, to provide victims with due process and with justice,” state Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake, said at a press conference Wednesday. She helped push the measure through the state House. (MPR News)

5. Stauber to get more help from the White House. Vice President Mike Pence is returning to Duluth next week to raise money for Republican congressional candidate Pete Stauber. Stauber’s campaign says Pence will be in town for a private event on Wednesday. At this point there are no indications he will make a public appearance in connection with the visit. In a news release, Stauber welcomed the help. “He not only understands our Midwestern values, he lives them every day,” Stauber said. “I am pleased he and the president are doing all they can to unleash the economic engine in northern Minnesota, and I look forward to welcoming the Vice President here next week.” Stauber is running for the open 8th Congressional District seat with his Democratic opponent to be decided in an August 14th primary. Republicans see the race as a top pickup opportunity this November. President Trump held a June campaign rally for Stauber in Duluth. (MPR News)

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