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History of the Minnesota Department of Corrections
 

1889
The first inmates were transferred from the State Prison to the new Minnesota State Reformatory for Men. Its first 128-cell building was constructed of granite quarried at the reformatory site.

The Minnesota Thresher Company received a two year lease on inmate labor at the State Prison.

Bob Younger died from tuberculosis in the State Prison.

1858–1889
Cell capacity of the State Prison grew from 22 cells to 582. In 1861, an addition included three cells for women.

1890
The Minnesota State Reform School relocated to Red Wing. The cornerstone was laid on May 20, 1890, and the facility formally opened in 1891. The original site in St. Paul was too small and the buildings crowded, inconvenient and greatly in need of repairs. The water supply was inadequate and the surrounding area was becoming more populated.


Scaffold on which offender was hanged in Hennepin County Jail in 1895

1892
“Conditional hearing with restraint” began which allowed adult offenders considered to be good risks to be released from prison prior to their discharge date, forerunner to the parole system.

One million pounds of finished twine were produced in the State Prison twine factory.

1893
A new parole law was passed by the legislature authorizing release of prisoners on parole prior to expiration of sentence.

1895
The Minnesota State Reform School at Red Wing was renamed the Minnesota State Training School for Boys and Girls.

An agency was established by the legislature to supervise children released from the Minnesota State Training School. The department was to furnish homes and supervision for children on parole. With an annual appropriation of $3,000, it was believed that if the department kept 20 children from returning to the training school, it would pay for itself.


Inmates and guards in the dining room of the State prison in 1900

1901
Legislation abolished the Board of Corrections and Charities and the Board of Managers. The Board of Control was established to supervise all state institutions and became the paroling authority for the State Prison and Reformatory. The privilege of parole consideration was extended to include inmates imprisoned for life. Jim and Cole Younger were paroled.


State Reformatory employee with bloodhounds in 1900

1905
The legislature authorized establishment of juvenile courts within the district courts in the state’s three largest counties—Ramsey, Hennepin and St. Louis—to handle all juvenile cases. County probation departments were established in connection with the newly authorized juvenile courts.

1906
The botched hanging of William Williams took place when the Ramsey County Sheriff miscalculated the length of rope for the execution. The rope and Mr. Williams’ neck stretched and the murderer’s feet touched the floor. Deputies had to pull the rope upward causing Mr. Williams’ death by strangulation, which took over fourteen minutes. This was more than spectators could stomach. After the execution was publicized in local newspapers, public sentiment started the legislature on a course that led to repeal of the death penalty in 1911.


The prison band at the State Prison in 1907

 

 

 

 

Minnesota Department of Corrections
1450 Energy Park Drive
Suite 200
St. Paul, Minnesota 55108

651-361-7200

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