SHAKOPEE, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota's only women's prison will finally get a fence around its perimeter in Shakopee.
The prison has tight security for its 600 inmates, including nearly 100 women convicted of homicide. The Minnesota Department of Corrections says the maximum-security prison maintains security by controlling the inmates' movement and through constant observation. But it has never had a fence separating its grounds from the surrounding neighborhood.
In the last two decades, eight prisoners have escaped, including one last year. All have been apprehended. Guards have caught 19 prisoners plotting escape plans. In in the last seven years, more than 30 people have been caught trespassing at the prison, according to Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/SdRxJZ ).
Such incidents point to the need for more security, warden Tracy Beltz said.
"That's what this is about is averting that really bad day," Beltz said.
Some neighbors believe construction of a 12-foot-high fence is an overreaction. Dennis Hron said that when the state built the prison nearly 30 years ago, officials promised there would be no fence.
"When they put it in they said it would be compatible with the neighborhood," Hron said. "And now, all of a sudden, they need a fence. That's flat-out lying to the people."
The prison grounds look something like a college campus, with brick buildings and even a softball field. But add a fence, Hron said, and his property value will decline.
The prison fence has been a topic of debate in Shakopee for the last 10 years. For most of that time, the City Council opposed it. But recent elections have changed that. New members are less concerned with what the prison used to be, and more concerned with what it is today, said Mayor Brad Tabke.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org