Monday, January 29, 2018

On This Date in Minnesota History: January 29

January 29, 1920 – Minnesota’s new barless and boltless prison will soon throw open its doors to receive women 18 years old or older, and when the doors are closed they will not shut out hope, cheer and human friendliness.

Letters sent out today by the Minnesota State Board of Control to every judge in the state carried the information that the new reformatory in Shakopee is ready for occupancy and that women now may be committed there.

Inmates will live for the present in the administration building, which has rooms for 18, in addition to the administration staff, but when the cottages are completed, will be quartered separately. Twenty women, now at the state penitentiary in Stillwater, will be moved to Shakopee as soon as the cottages are ready, Miss Florence Monahan, superintendent, explains.

Women’s Reformatory in Shakopee1

The reformatory is situated one mile west of Shakopee on a bluff overlooking the Minnesota River. The administration building faces south and includes a 167 acre farm on the reformatory property.

“The first thing the women committed will do is to make curtains for the windows of the building,” said Miss Monahan. “They will make their own clothes and later will tint the walls of the building. The women will do all the domestic work. They will be trained in household arts, in farming and gardening.”

Women prisoners working the farm2

Miss Monahan has been working with the board of control since Oct., when she went east to attend a prison convention in Boston and to visit the leading reformatories for women.

“Uniforms will not be worn,” she said, “but instead women will wear attractive, serviceable dresses of different colors. White is to be worn on Sunday. As is customary in other reformatories, there will be a system of grading and marking. Every woman will enter the second grade. If she does well, she will be put in the first grade and, if not, in the third. The third grade is also for those who run away or commit any offense against the institution. Privileges will be granted according to the grades.

“Life will be made as nearly normal as possible, with plenty of work, plenty of sleep, good food, recreation and an opportunity for training. Classes will be arranged for illiterates, if needed, and also for any woman to study any subject she wants.”

The women’s reformatory at Shakopee opened Feb. 2, 1920, to take care of all women sentenced to prison in Minnesota.

No women prisoners have as yet been received at the institution, but the first four are to be transferred from Stillwater at once. The institution is now able to care for 25 women. A section not yet completed will enlarge the capacity to 50.

There are no bars on the windows and there will be no guards, armed with rifles, walking posts. The purpose of the institution will be to give women an opportunity to retrieve themselves and return at the expiration of their sentence to civil life again, according to Superintendant Monahan.

The women will be engaged in caring for the gardens, cows, chickens and in other pursuits.

The Daily People’s Press; “New Prison for Women Opens at Shakopee. Institution Will Be Without Bars and Fetters.”; Jan. 30, 1920; p. 1.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Shakopee Woman’s Reformatory Opens. First Four Prisoners to Be Transferred Immediately From Stillwater.”; Feb. 3, 1920; p. 14.



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