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Court halts MNDOC’s plans to reincarcerate people released on conditional medical release during pandemic

By WCCO Staff

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    MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Ramsey Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order that halts the Minnesota Department of Corrections from reincarcerating people who were released from prison during the pandemic due to medical risk.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN) and other legal clinics filed a lawsuit against the department earlier this week.

In response, MNDOC released a statement.

“We respect the court’s order and will follow it as we prepare for the court to determine the ultimate path forward next week. COVID-19 Conditional Medical Release was a temporary strategy to provide added protection for those at greatest risk of severe COVID-19 consequences when there was no vaccine or treatment available. That has changed. Given the availability of effective vaccines and therapeutic medications today, we do not believe the commissioner can justify continued release any longer,” the statement said.

Two plaintiffs are listed in the lawsuit. The first, Tanya Mae Walker, gave birth in December and cares for her sick mother. Walker has also been helping others with addiction recovery.

“Ms. Wagner, through her extraordinary rehabilitation, does not deserve this sudden disruption of the eight-month bond she has built with her newborn,” said JaneAnne Murray, director of the University of Minnesota Clemency Clinic, which represents Tanya Wagner.

The second plaintiff, Dale Allen, suffers from serious heart and lung issues and has open-heart surgery scheduled in two weeks. If he were incarcerated, he would not be able to undergo surgery, ACLU-MN says. Additionally, he cares for his parents.

The MNDOC notified those released on conditional medical release (CMR) that they must surrender to the department on or before Aug. 15 to complete their sentences.

The ACLU-MN says the next court hearing is set for Aug. 18.

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