A Mankato lawmaker who is also a former security counselor at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter is among those mourning the death of a second corrections officer this summer. Officer Joe Parise, just 37 years old, died on Monday after he helped break up an inmate’s assault on another officer at Oak Park Heights prison, leaving his co-workers stunned.
“Because of the shift work, because of the actual job that they do, they are a very close-knit group. They tend to socialize together, they tend to be involved in each other’s lives offering support and help for each other. It’s been devastating,” said Minnesota State Representative Jack Considine.
In July, 42-year-old officer Joseph Gomm was killed after an assault in Stillwater prison. Prior to his death, the Minnesota DOC had never recorded a death in the line of duty.
He added that the death from an apparent heart attack shows that corrections officers in Minnesota are in a high-risk occupation and deserve better support. “The second one just points out all of the different aspects of it. The stress, the anxiety, the physical demand of fighting for your life.”
Staffing concerns at the state’s prisons need to be addressed and Considine said, “We need to take a comprehensive look at this and bring our staffing up to where it needs to be for the safety, not only of the staff but also the inmates. If things are out of control the inmates are probably in more danger than the staff is.”
The second line of duty death came just after DOC workers were rocked by the death of James Church last week. He had just retired from the prison in Shakopee when he was killed in a car crash. “He’d only been retired for about a month,” Considine explained, “And he and his wife – last I knew his wife was still in the hospital in critical condition – but the officer died. So while it wasn’t on duty it was another thing that rocked that community.”
The Oak Park Heights prison remains under lockdown as an investigation into Parise’s death continues.