Shakopee prison conditions constitute cruel and unusual punishment

Courtesy of Photo by Enrico Hänel on

At MCF-Shakopee [a Minnesota Correctional Facility for women] the female inmates are witnessing and being subjected to multiple forms of cruel and unusual punishment.

First, there has been this ongoing drive by the warden and her staff to double-bunk all rooms throughout the Shakopee facility. Furthermore, she intends to gut and replace all wood with nothing but a metal bunk bed and two storage bins to store inmate property in. No more wooden closets, drawers, or anywhere to hang items neat and orderly.

Second, last winter/early spring the warden began this construction project in the Anthony Unit with four single rooms on the upper floors. Slowly all summer and fall of 2022 the maintenance department has assisted in gutting more rooms until all upper rooms/single cells have now been double-bunked in that unit. 

I was told that due to time constraints, the warden is seeking electrical contractor bids to move this project along fast. She wants Anthony completed, then on to the other small units (Tubman and Roosevelt), then off to the larger units until all of Shakopee is metal beds and living out of bins. 

Last week the warden emptied out the lower “B” wing and overcrowded other units preparing for the next round of construction. Here are all of the problems with this entire construction project. 

All the way back to the year 2000, MNDOC was denied any further expansion due to the inability to further expand the sewage system and the inability to alter the fire codes. This would also explain why all of this remodeling construction has been done without any permits.

To follow through with this remodeling construction would mean that the MNDOC would break several Minnesota laws. The first would be the law requiring one shower for every eight people; next is the size of the building’s square footage required per person for fire codes. 

Then there is the Minnesota law that dictates the required square footage per person in a room in a prison; and finally, MN Rule #2900.0200 is being violated, which will not provide each inmate the minimum storage space required for their personal property due to the bins MNDOC provides being too small.

In addition to all I have shared here, the Commissioner declared in 2020 that all inmates that are in “closed” custody and above must be single-celled. Shakopee refuses to comply.

Our toilets already hardly flush without issue due to the overcrowding that currently exists from women being stuffed into wing lounges four to six deep, as if they are secured housing rooms. 

The beds MNDOC plans to use are a major suicide risk for hangings. The ladders are nothing but 3/8″ to 1/2″ bolts that bare feet will be stepping on. How much liability is the state willing to incur? That is the real question.

Then there is the recent heat fiasco. True to MCF-Shakopee fashion, the inmates in the majority of the prison are freezing due to lack of heat and severely old heating units. For approximately 10-11 days now, Upper and Lower “B” wings in the Roosevelt Unit have been suffering from severe cold temperatures under 68° (this is also the case in Anthony). 

The average temperature over this time period has been in the low 60s. When the DOC staff has been taking these room temperatures, they rely on a governor’s executive order from 2005 that states 68° is acceptable. 

What it does not allow for is outside brick walls that have zero insulation, floors that have zero insulation, and windows that leak air like sieves, all adding to the room temperature’s decline. These continual indifferent attitudes and cold conditions violate inmates’ civil rights and endanger their health.

Continual staff excuses range from, “It’s the weekend, so there is no one here to fix it”; but during the week, no one shows up to fix it. Either way it is the inmates who are forced to live with frozen feet, frozen hands, frozen noses, etc. I think you get the picture. Cruel and unusual punishment says it all.

MNDOC cannot use funding as an excuse when they are doing construction they have no funding for. The inmate’s cost of confinement account has more than $200,000, so not having money for heat is not an excuse. 

The truth is MNDOC can afford a little more heat. Just take a stroll over to the Core Building where the administration staff works, and you will find it to be toasty warm!

Mary E. Petersen,  #259723

Shakopee Correctional Facility

2 Comments on “Shakopee prison conditions constitute cruel and unusual punishment”

  1. Maybe she should check out the men’s prison. In Faribault every cell is double bucked steel and all your belongings go into two tubs.

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