About the Department of Corrections
The commissioner of corrections, as the chief administrative officer of the department, is responsible for operation of adult and juvenile state correctional facilities; provision of probation, supervised release, and parole services; administration of the state Community Corrections Act; and provision of assistance and guidance on a statewide basis in the management of criminal justice programs and facilities.
Responsibilities of the commissioner of corrections in Minnesota are much broader than is typical of most other states. For example, Minnesota is one of fewer than a dozen states where the commissioner is responsible for both adult and juvenile facilities. The commissioner is responsible for determinations regarding the parole of first-degree murderers; in most states, this function is the responsibility of a separate parole board. The provision of probation and parole services is also a function of a separate agency in many states.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections was created in 1959 to consolidate state correctional functions into one agency. A service and regulatory agency, the department has a broad scope of activities and responsibilities.
The department currently operates ten correctional facilities including eight for adults and two for juveniles. For adult offenders, a five-level classification system reflects the necessary level of control for offenders classified in each designation. The department continues to plan for an increasing prison population, based on projections determined by the agency and the Sentencing Guidelines Commission.
Adult prison populations total more than 9,400 inmates; juvenile residents number around 150. Department agents supervise about 20,000 adult and juvenile offenders on probation, supervised release, and parole. Through the state Community Corrections Act, the department also administers subsidy funds to units of local government for corrections programs.
Organization & Staff
The department is organized into three divisions:
The Facility Services Division, headed by a deputy commissioner who reports directly to the commissioner. This division oversees Health Services, MINNCOR Industries, Safety, and Office of Special Investigations.
The Community Services Division, headed by a deputy commissioner who reports directly to the commissioner. This division oversees Juvenile Services, Administrative Services, Field Services, Information & Technology, and Office Services.
The Support Services Division, headed by an assistant commissioner who reports directly to the commissioner. This division oversees the Office of Diversity, Employee Development, Victim Assistance/Restorative Justice, Financial Services, Continuous Improvement/Best Practices, and Human Resource Management.
Policy & Legal Services, the Communications Office, a government relations director, and an executive aide also report directly to the commissioner. Additionally, the commissioner’s office has direct access to advisory representatives from the state’s Attorney General’s Office and Department of Finance.
The department has approximately 4,200 employees working in facilities, field offices, central office, and MINNCOR Industries.
Minnesota has had relatively low levels of violent crime for many years. Minnesota’s low rate of incarceration is reflected in the correctional system’s heavy reliance on local alternatives to prison for less serious offenders. The system is designed to reserve expensive prison space for only those criminals who are dangerous and need to be incarcerated.
All of the department’s correctional institutions meet standards established by the American Correctional Association (ACA). The standards relate to all aspects of institutional operation. The department’s central office, adult and juvenile release functions, and adult and juvenile field services also meet ACA standards.
Inmates in state facilities have access to a variety of work, education, and other program activities. MINNCOR Industries provides positive activities for inmates while they are incarcerated and develops work skills they can use in productive employment after release. Educational programs focus on basic literacy instruction. Programs are also provided for sex offenders and chemically-dependent inmates.