Shakopee women's prison houses 79 murderers, is across street from elementary school, has no fence

Categories: Crime
Shakopee prison hedge.jpg
All that separates the 70 convicted murderers at Shakopee prison from freedom is this hedge.
The Women's Correctional Facility in Shakopee is the only women's prison in the state. During the past 17 years, seven offenders have escaped from the prison, and 15 others have tried, only to be thwarted by prison staff.

The kicker? The 25-year-old women's prison has no fence -- just a knee-high bushy hedge that anybody with a set of legs can walk through.

So, straight from the 'what in God's name took so long department' comes the news that Warden Tracy Beltz, with the backing of Gov. Dayton and the Shakopee City Council, is pushing to have a $5.4 million wrought-iron fence built around the prison.

The prison houses some badass chicas -- KARE reports that out of the 570 criminals housed there, 79 have been convicted of murder. And oh yeah, it happens to be right across the street from an elementary school in a residential part of town. All this being said, it doesn't seem like allocating some funds to replace the hedge with a real fence would provoke controversy, does it?
shakopee prison prisoners.jpg
Warden Beltz: "There's a common misperception that we house only non-violent offenders, and that's never been the case."

But indeed, some neighbors and public officials are resistant to the idea of shelling out dough for a prison fence. During a Shakopee city meeting last month where the City Council endorsed Gov. Dayton's proposal to allocate bonding funds for the fence, former Sheriff Dave Menden, now a Scott County commissioner, told councilors he believes there's no compelling reason to spend millions securing the prison.

"I've lived there almost 40 years, raised kids there, and I've never seen it as a threat and don't today," he said, suggesting he wasn't paying attention to the news while seven prisoners escaped since the mid-1990s.

Furthermore, KARE reports that while fence funds were being discussed by legislators, "some Republican members of the House bonding committee sough a cheaper alternative, and were told a traditional chain link fence topped with razor wire could be built for roughly $2 million less." Only problem? Neighbors aren't keen to live across the street from what looks to be a razor-wire enclosed prison camp, and the Shakopee City Council only supports the fence project on the condition it's constructed with a less-ugly wrought-iron design.

We'll see if $5.4 million for a decent-looking fence ends up being included in the bonding bill the Republican-controlled legislature eventually sends to Gov. Dayton, whenever they get around to sending him one. It seems like a project the party of law and order should be able to get behind, even if they have to kick in a couple extra mil to ensure the fence doesn't end up being a neighborhood eyesore.

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