Brief escape from Shakopee prison revives fence debate

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 3, 2013 - 9:21 PM

A 23-minute escape late Monday from the state women’s prison in Shakopee appears certain to renew pressure to build a fence around the prison after decades without one.

The escape attempt “dramatically underscores the need to build a fence,” Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke said on his blog. “It was a completely unnecessary risk that must be corrected in the 2014 legislative session.”

A woman being held at Shakopee for an escape attempt in Hennepin County evaded pursuers for less than half an hour before Shakopee police found her lurking in some bushes, said John Schadl, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Angel Lynn Benjamin, 25, was spotted making a run for it as inmates were being moved as a group from one spot to another, he said, and was caught at 7:17 p.m.

A fence would cost about $5 million, and legislators face outspoken opposition from some neighbors, including a former county sheriff. They fear that it would be unsightly and lower property values.

Nonetheless, there’s been bipartisan support from DFLer Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican former Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Schadl said the governor’s office assured him again on Tuesday that funding for a fence is on the administration’s list for next session.

Told that local critics are bound to say that once again nothing serious happened, despite a series of getaways over the years, Schadl said:

“Thankfully we’ll never know that, as she was only at large for 23 minutes. We would have voted for not having her at large at all.”

David Peterson 

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