State leaders took a somber moment last week to honor the namesake of new legislation aimed at bettering safety standards for incarcerated Minnesotans.
Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell met with Del Shea Perry to mark the recent passage of the Hardel Sherrell Act, named for her son who died after medical neglect while in the Beltrami County jail in 2018.
Perry helped lawmakers craft the new legislation.
"We have a crisis situation in our state and we desperately needed reforms to save lives," Schnell said. "People are held in custody for a wide array of reasons — it shouldn't be a death sentence because of a failure to provide basic levels of care."
The new law requires minimum standards on mental health, suicide prevention and other health policies at the Department of Corrections. It also sets up a process for revoking facility licenses when they are deemed unfit for use and mandates audits and "death review teams."
The legislation, which passed during the June special session, also limits how use of force can be applied in correctional facilities.
"For true reform, and to keep our communities safe, we need to be able to hold people accountable when they fail in their duty to protect those in their care and custody," Walz said.