A Minnesota Jailer Was Punished For Depriving A Feces-Smearing Inmate Of Food And Water

After an inmate smeared excrement in his cell and refused to clean it up, the Minnesota Department of Corrections fined a county jail for depriving the man of food and water for more than two days.

A Minnesota Jailer Was Punished For Depriving A Feces-Smearing Inmate Of Food And Water

By Thursday at the latest, the department mandated that all occupants of the Otter Tail County Jail in Fergus Falls be moved to new facilities. Until the state government gives its approval, the jail may hold incoming inmates for no longer than 72 hours, not including holidays or weekends.

The offender flung excrement on the inside of his cell door, smeared it on his cell window, and threw it underneath his cell door into the jail’s dayroom area on Saturday, February 10, as per the department inspector general’s directive. He was told by jail staff that unless he cleaned it up, they wouldn’t feed him, but he refused.

The report stated that the prisoner was not only denied six consecutive meals by the staff, but he also admitted to an inspection that the water supply to his cell had been cut off, forcing him to drink his own urine and toilet water. He was observed “ingesting his own feces” by jail authorities on the second day, a Sunday, the report stated. He claimed to be hungry when staff observed him licking the feces from his cell glass, according to records.

However, it wasn’t until the following Tuesday that staff members informed medical staff about his possible physical and mental health issues. A daily shower was also denied to him.

The order stated that it is entirely forbidden by state regulations to deny detainees food as a form of punishment. It stated that the jail’s inability to comply “has contributed to conditions that have the potential to pose an imminent risk of life-threatening harm or serious physical injury to individuals confined or incarcerated in the facility if left uncorrected.”

Barry Fitzgibbons, the sheriff for Otter Tail County, stated in a statement on Wednesday that his staff will abide with the state’s directives.

“I sincerely regret this incident occurred,” Fitzgibbons said in a statement. “Otter Tail County Sheriff’s office is dedicated to preserving the safety and security of our staff and our inmates. We will work closely with the DOC to ensure the requirements outlined in their order are being implemented.”

The Department of Corrections was notified on February 20 that the jail administrator had initiated an internal inquiry with the assistance of a local law firm, and that she had self-reported the staff actions. This was how the issue came to light. The agency made the decision to carry out an internal review as well.

The prisoner—whose identity remained a secret—was moved to a jail in a nearby county. The only explanation given in the order for his detention was that “he had disciplinary time left to serve from a previous term of incarceration.”

The state’s conclusions were not refuted by the sheriff’s reply. Follow-up letters asking why the prisoner was being held, whether any staff members had received disciplinary action, and whether the prisoner had mental health problems were not promptly answered by his office.

Corrections officials mandated that jail staff receive refresher and remedial training on topics such as adequate inmate monitoring, inmate rights, and identifying warning signs of mental illness.

According to the judgment, the jail’s license to reopen for business will only be reinstated if all required corrective measures have been fulfilled and it has been confirmed that a strategy has been put in place to ensure that a similar situation doesn’t occur again.

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