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Minnesota Women's Legislative Timeline

Significant Legislation Passed by the Minnesota Legislature Since Suffrage

1982 - Shakopee Women's Correctional Facility 

Synopsis: The Minnesota Legislature authorized funding for a new prison facility in Shakopee exclusively for women. (Laws 1982, Chapter 639, Section 11)

Legislative History: While the Shakopee Prison project had several major milestones in its legislative history, the one that provided initial authorization for the project occurred in 1982. At that time, the legislature authorized $4.7 million in state bonds to be issued for the construction of a new, state of the art, women's prison, adjacent to the old women's prison in Shakopee. The following year, construction began on the new women's prison (the only one in the state) and the new building opened in 1986.

Historical Context: In 1908, the state of Minnesota constructed a separate school for delinquent girls (the Minnesota Home School for Girls) in Sauk Centre. But it was not until 1920 that a separate prison for adult women opened in the state. Here is a report on testimony from a 1915 legislative hearing on the issue:

On March 4, at a legislative hearing at the State Capitol, Mrs. Isabel Davis Higbee made a plea for establishment of a reformatory for women. She argued in favor of a new institution where women offenders would neither be incarcerated with male inmates nor with teenage girls. At the conclusion of her talk, Mrs. Higbee collapsed and died. On March 10, the legislature passed a bill authorizing establishment of the women's reformatory. At the time, the majority of women law-breakers were found guilty of prostitution and were usually fined and sent home or committed to the workhouse for a short term. Others were sent to the State Prison, the State Reformatory or the girls' school. The superintendent at the reformatory took women inmates into his home or placed them in the local jail. (Corrections Retrospective, MN Department of Corrections, 1999)

When the new Shakopee Correctional Facility opened in 1986, the census was 92 inmates. Today there are close to 600. While there has not been a high profile breakout since the new prison opened, there is ongoing controversy in the community about the issue of fencing. Currently the prison has a hedge separating the prison from the community, but various legislators and law enforcement have tried over the years to have a 10-12 foot perimeter fence constructed, arguing that the types of prisoner have changed and grown increasingly violent. Others in the community argue against the fence and say it's not necessary. The Shakopee prison offers substance abuse treatment, parenting training and mental health treatment.

Selected Resources
Bakkedahl, Dan. 'Uncaged Heat'. The Daily Show. March 7, 2006. A satirical look at the issue of erecting a fence around the Shakopee Prison.

Corrections Retrospective 1959-1999. St. Paul, MN : Minnesota Department of Corrections, 1999.

Facility Information: Minnesota Correctional Facility - Shakopee. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Cox, Peter. 'Shakopee Prison Fence Doing Time in Political Purgatory.' Star Tribune, March 2, 2010.

This is a joint project of the LCC Office on the Economic Status of Women and the Legislative Reference Library.  The project is made possible by the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008. Administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.

MNHS Legacy Grant Receipient Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment