Shakopee prison alone in nation in being unfenced, state says

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 10, 2013 - 3:00 PM

Ivy League-style brick wall is proposed for the women’s prison, where an inmate briefly escaped this month.

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Except for the sign, there’s little to indicate that a passerby is walking along the Shakopee women’s prison. The Department of Corrections wants to add a wall around the prison.

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The state women’s prison at Shakopee is the only institution of its type in the entire nation that is not fenced off to prevent escapes.

That is one major point the state will make to lawmakers in the coming legislative session as it seeks, in the wake of yet another successful breakout, to secure the millions needed to install one.

John Schadl, chief spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, was questioned about the escape of Angel Lynn Benjamin, 25, and its wider implications.

Here’s what he had to say:

Q: How did this happen?

A: At 6:54 p.m. [a week ago Monday], a number of offenders were doing a controlled movement back to a living unit when an officer saw her run off to the perimeter.

He immediately notified the watch command and they activated the emergency system, and he began to pursue. She was able to leave the grounds, cross 10th Street, and at that point we notified Shakopee police, who began a search.

She was found 23 minutes later, hiding under a hedge or bush outside a residence.

Q: Was she a violent offender?

A: I don’t believe so; she was with us because of a felony charge of escape from custody [from a hospital stay] while being held in Hennepin County on another violation. [She was just admitted to Shakopee in late November.]

Q: Do you expect this incident to help propel your long-standing request for funds to fence in the prison?

A: What we can say is that this has been a departmental priority for bonding funds for several legislative sessions, and I know both former Gov. [Tim] Pawlenty and Gov. [Mark] Dayton supported it. It will be going into the hopper. I talked to the governor’s office and they told me he is very supportive of the project.

Q: Online, it is listed as your department’s top individual request, after a blanket, departmentwide $40 million ‘ask’ for asset preservation — things like maintenance of roofs. Yet neighbors say there has never been any serious episode following an escape. What’s the case to be made to the contrary?

  • related content

  • A low fence and hedges now surround parts of the Shakopee prison, which was built in 1986 “amid severe budget constraints.”

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