History of the Minnesota Department of Corrections
The department sponsored the first National Workshop on Women Offenders. Collection of a surcharge on wages earned by inmates began and was used for crime victim programs.
Minnesota ’s Sentencing to Service (STS) program was established. STS puts locally sentenced, non-dangerous offenders to work on community improvement projects.
A minimum-security unit opened on the grounds of the Moose Lake Regional Treatment Center. Eventually, the entire treatment center was converted to a medium-security prison. From 1990 to 1994, the facility also housed adult female inmates.
The legislature began its annual passage of crime bills, substantially increasing criminal penalties. Eventually, sentencing guidelines were doubled for all crimes in the higher severity levels, time was increased from 17 to 30 years before parole eligibility for life sentences for first-degree murder, and life without parole was created for certain crimes.
Minnesota was selected by Financial World as the magazine’s national winner for having a cost-effective correctional system.
The Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, operated by a local private entity, was issued its first license by the state corrections department. In 1996, Corrections Corporation of America assumed management of the facility.
MINNCOR, the state’s prison industry program, was formed to integrate and centralize administration and sales functions of the department’s various industry operations.
An expansion at the MCF-Shakopee was completed to address increasing populations.
The department was the first correctional agency in the nation to establish a restorative justice office with a full-time staff person. Restorative justice is a framework for the criminal justice system that emphasizes ways in which crime harms relationships in the context of community. It provides for participation by the victim, the offender, and the community in community reparation.
The MCF-Lino Lakes was expanded to a capacity of 1,000.
The MCF-St. Cloud became the admitting facility for the department for all adult male offenders.
An escape attempt at Stillwater was thwarted when three inmates hiding in a garbage truck were observed by the truck’s driver.
A work program for adult offenders was established at Camp Ripley by the legislature. The program closed in 1999 due to lack of use.
A new 232-bed chemical dependency unit opened at the MCF-Lino Lakes.
Conversion of the former Moose Lake Regional Treatment Center to a medium-security prison housing over 600 inmates was completed.
The MCF-Faribault expanded its capacity to over 800 beds.
In accordance with state law, as of August 1 no inmates or staff in state correctional facilities could possess or use tobacco.
The legislature established a camp for juvenile offenders at Camp Ripley to be operated by the corrections department. It is later transferred to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
A new Center for Crime Victim Services was created which combined victim services from a number of agencies including the state corrections department.
Funding was approved for a new project operated through the department’s Institution Community Work Crew program to use nonviolent inmates to build affordable housing for low-income families.
After deliberations regarding the potential operation of the new state prison at Rush City by the private sector, the legislature appropriated funds for operation of the prison by the state corrections department. The prison is scheduled to open in January 2000.
The state corrections department began a comprehensive community outreach program to increase citizen participation in corrections. A number of citizen advisory groups are formed and a series of community days and forums held.
Photographs are used with the permission of the Minnesota Historical Society.