The only sensible solution is a new building
Intro: The following commentary was made possible through a partnership with Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. The writer’s name has been withheld at their request.
The Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee (MCF-Shakopee) prides itself for its open claim to “housing all custody levels.” This is the phrase they hide behind to avoid the Minnesota law and Commissioner Paul Schnell’s 2020 directive that all “closed custody and above” is to be housed in single cells.
At Shakopee, Warden Kathy Halverson gives the order to tear out all wood—closets, beds, etc., and double bunk with dangerous metal beds, even those that are already double-bunked. She insists on turning MCF-Shakopee into what she calls “a real prison,” forcing all women to fit all their property in two gray bins.
Please note those bins do not meet Minnesota Rule No. 2900.0200 Subp. 17, which states the requirement of a minimum of six cubic square feet per inmate of storage; more on this below. Is this transforming lives for a safer Minnesota, remodeling for extra punishment at taxpayers’ expense?
After the help of several concerned citizens across the United States, we have discovered that MCF-Shakopee and the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MN DOC) is performing all of this construction without any type of building or electrical permits. Through public record research on the internet, those concerned citizens searched Scott County, State of Minnesota, and all the way to the State Capitol with absolutely no permits on file.
Once this was completed, OSHA was contacted. They too were disturbed to hear of this, as nothing is on file with OSHA either!
Before we go any further, I feel as if some history should be shared to clarify why MCF-Shakopee is being secretive and unlawful in their activities. When the double-bunking expansion first occurred in 2000, MCF-Shakopee double-bunked all the rooms they could, legally, according to laws and rules regarding plumbing and from the fire marshall.
For example, the smaller units of Roosevelt and Tubman have single rooms only on their upper levels and one double room per upper level, because they could not put another bathroom/shower on those levels.
The plumbing is incompatible and not up to par, therefore it is unable to be expanded beyond the state law and federal regulations of eight offenders per shower. That is exactly what this expansion tallied on those upper levels in 2000. They also double-bunked all the rooms on the lower levels of these two units and turned a closet on each lower level into a second shower room to accommodate 14 offenders for maximum capacity.
In Anthony, the smallest unit, having been constructed too quickly in the ‘70s due to overpopulation, the plumbing cannot be expanded. In 2000, MCF-Shakopee was strictly instructed that they were unable to add a second shower on either levels and that double-bunking would not be an option in Anthony, except for one room on each level to total the maximum of eight offenders per level.
Since Warden Halverson’s order, the upper “A” level in Anthony is almost completely double-bunked and filled, with no ability to add another shower, no building permits, and I ask where is the money coming from when MCF-Shakopee has trouble making enough food to feed its offenders?
Where is the money coming from when we had to fight like cats and dogs for heat? Where is the money coming from when the Minnesota Legislature denied MN DOC improvements money?
Beyond the danger of broken fire code laws, plumbing laws, and how many other laws regarding permits, etc, I found there are the Minnesota Rules that are not being followed.
Minnesota Rule No. 2900.0600 Subp.1 states that each inmate is to be provided 70 sq. ft. per offender. Our rooms to date are approximately 60 sq ft. of floor space. If we are beginning to add a second offender to all of the rooms, these are more violations of law.
While the men’s prisons are working hard to “single cell” all of the men, promoting positive mental health, privacy, and calm, MN DOC and MCF-Shakopee are heinously attacking the women offenders by trying to do the opposite.
Minnesota Rule No. 2900.0600 Subp.22 & 23 states that MCF-Shakopee is required to provide in our rooms one fixed dresser per offender and/or a clothes closet or a fixed wall locker. Therefore, forcing the offenders in MCF-Shakopee to live out of these inadequate bins is yet another illegal act and another broken law by the MN DOC staff.
It is another illegal act to house the inmates in “wing-lounges,” which are not rooms for housing offenders. That is another four to six offenders per room suffering at the hands of the MN DOC.
Finally, Minnesota Rule No. 2900.0600 Subp. 22 & 23 also states that it is allowed to have one shower for every 15 offenders IF the minimum size of the shower is 36″ x 36.” However, here at Shakopee, our showers are 27″ x 30″ which still limits the capacity to eight offenders per shower. Some units have a shower in an old tub on the lower levels and a 27″ x 30″ shower room, so they can legally accommodate the 14 offenders they house, but that is all.
As you can see, expansion at MCF-Shakopee, to be lawful, requires a new building. If those of us being housed here are expected to follow the law, I would hope and pray that the taxpayers of Minnesota would hold those running this institution to the same standards and accountable for their actions. I know that I sure do.
The argument cannot even be made that “they didn’t know.” This Minnesota Rule has been in place since November 8, 2004.
Finally, let’s consider the argument from the other side: What can they do if the prison is overcrowded? Here’s what I think: Utilize existing effective early release programs like work and medical release, CIP, and more, to significantly reduce the prison population.
This commentary was submitted by an inmate in Shakopee prison who wishes to remain anonymous due to safety concerns.