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Minnesota Prison Cited For Asbestos Infractions

A Minnesota prison received nine citations and was fined over $18,000 for violations involving cancercausing asbestos. The judgment levied against Faribault prison, in November 2000, by Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Division, came as a result of disgruntled employees who say they have complained about the conditions for years. Minnesota OSHA reports that in the oneandahalf miles of tunnels connecting prison facilities "sections of the material were loose and the wrap was gone, exposing white fibrous insulation."

Guards are required to patrol the tunnels routinely. Alden Hoffmen, OSHA inspection supervisor, says, "the danger is that officers would travel through this area and if it was not repaired, the debris would be trampled on and carried throughout." Prison guard Scott Metcalf told OSHA officials that officers have complained for 10 years about the asbestos problem.

A single fiber of asbestos is capable of causing a variety of lung cancers. OSHA spokesman, James Honerman, estimates that about 40 people may have inhaled the dangerous material. The OSHA report criticized the prison's lack of effort to detect problems and fix them.

Warden Connie Roerich insists that repairs have always been made promptly. Deputy corrections commissioner, Dennis Benson blames the conditions on normal wearandtear. Faribault was originally a state hospital built in the 1880s. Prison officials say that $171,000 was spent on the facility last summer to correct asbestos problems.

"We take these issues very seriously in trying to create an environment that is safe for both staff and inmates," Benson said. But as recently as October, OSHA officials found repairs to be unsatisfactory and more citations and fines are likely to be imposed.

Sources: Minneapolis Star Tribune

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