BAYPORT, Minn. — The Minnesota Correctional Facility – Stillwater, recently marked its 100th year in operation. The facility was completed in 1914, and is still the state’s largest close-security institution for adult male offenders.
One of 10 adult facilities throughout the state, the 20-acre Stillwater complex consists of more than 60 different buildings. It offers both minimum and close security, and was considered state-of-the-art when it first opened.
Though it was originally constructed to hold 1,000, today more than 1,600 inmates reside at the Stillwater facility, and are supervised and managed by a staff of roughly 500. A series of retrofitting projects over the last decade, as well as the addition of bunk beds, has increased the facility’s capacity. Other upgrades, such as the installation of electrically operated cell doors, have also increased safety and security for both inmates and staff.
To mark the facility’s 100th anniversary, Minnesota Department of Corrections officials allowed members of the media to tour the facility. Speaking with Minnesota Public Radio, Warden Michelle Smith commented on how life has improved for Stillwater inmates over the past century. "In prison 100 years ago, I think offenders were…warehoused, essentially,” Smith said. “And through the course of time, now really our big push is education."
Among the facility’s educational offerings are a variety of vocational and industrial programs. Inmates learn skills such as metalworking, woodworking, furniture construction, upholstery, distribution and installation services, warehousing and other subcontracting work, earning up to two dollars per hour. According to Minnesota Public Radio, inmates at the Stillwater facility also have access to services such as a library, fitness center and religious center. Many inmates also earn their GED at the facility, and learn computer and job skills.
“[The inmates] need to make better choices, and we hope that the things we are doing here are giving them options for those better choices,” Smith added in an interview with WCCO.
Though Minnesota Correctional Facility – Stillwater operates a chemical dependency program that serves 36 inmates in the residential unit, and up to 150 in a follow up program, it has also made headlines for its care of ill inmates.
The facility most recently made the news for an incident in which a supervisor was accused of destroying health records for a critically ill inmate. That inmate is currently suing the facility for medical negligence connected to his treatment for a life-threatening blood clot. The inmate, who is currently serving a life sentence, later collapsed and is now partially paralyzed.