‘Barbaric existence’: Derek Chauvin prison time to involve continued isolation for own safety
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. The sentencing invoked mixed reactions from the public, especially from the faction that was hoping for a stricter sentence.
But if the latest reports are anything to go by, Chauvin will face continued isolation in prison during his incarceration for the murder. According to the latest report in Star Tribune, Chauvin's prison time will involve continued isolation and the reasons for that are aplenty.
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On Friday, June 25, 2021, over a year after Floyd's death, Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison in Hennepin County District Court. On April 20, 2021, he was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for killing Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin's attorney, had reportedly requested probation and time served, or alternately, less time than the length recommended by state sentencing guidelines (between just over 10.5 years to 15 years). Prosecutors asked for 30 years, and the public was hoping for a longer sentence too.
And even though the final verdict was ultimately not received without criticism, Mitchell Hamline School of Law Prof Ted Sampsell-Jones reportedly predicted a "barbaric existence" for Chauvin's time behind bars. "He's going to be basically in solitary [confinement], which is an absolutely horrific, brutal condition. It destroys people."
This is also for Chauvin's own safety. Nelson had outlined the prospect of violence in prison as one of his points in the June 2 sentencing memorandum as cause for leniency in Chauvin's sentence. "Independent of the long-term damage a prison sentence would inflict upon Mr Chauvin's life prospects, given his age, convictions for officer-involved offenses significantly increase the likelihood of him becoming a target in prison," Nelson had written. "Such safety concerns are evident by his presentence solitary confinement in a high-security prison." Nelson also noted that Chauvin had been preliminarily diagnosed with heart damage that could shorten his life.
Chauvin will likely face "immediate danger" in prison, defense attorney Joe Friedberg told the publication. "I don't know how he can do his time other than in 23-1 [hour] lockdown in solitary," Friedberg said. "I don't think he can be trusted with anybody."
As per reports, the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) declined to reveal where Chauvin was going to be taken immediately after the sentencing and where he will serve his time.
Before his sentencing, Chauvin was reportedly held at the DOC's Oak Park Heights prison in a form of solitary confinement for his safety. The DOC had said that he was being held in the Administrative Control Unit (ACU), the state's most secure unit, under administrative and not disciplinary segregation.
As per the DOC spokeswoman Sarah Fitzgerald, Chauvin's conditions allowed up to 10 photos, subscriptions to periodicals, a radio and extra canteen food. He had apparently been let out of his cell for about an hour a day for exercise. Security is of utmost importance - ACU cells are monitored by cameras, and corrections officers conduct routine rounds at least every 30 minutes. He can have up to three non-contact visits per week and can receive US mail and electronic messages through JPay, which is a paid messaging system for prisoners.