Minnesota prison opens its doors for a rare look inside the facility

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MOOSE LAKE, MN (CBS NEWSPATH) — Minnesota Correction Facility-Moose Lake opened its doors Wednesday giving the media a peak into life behind bars.

Moose Lake is a medium correctional facility which houses more than 1,000 male offenders.

Prison officials aren’t blind to the challenges of running a prison.

“We’re not numb to having incidences of offender on offender assaults here. If I were to quantify, maybe one or two a week maybe three on a bad week,” said Moose Lake warden Nate Knutson.

There are programming and protocols in place to mitigate dangerous situations.

“It’s conflict resolution among the offender population. If two offenders have issues we’ll put them together and we’ll navigate the conversation whether it’s a unit lieutenant, whether it’s an officer, whether it’s the warden. Whoever is engaged at the time,” said Knutson.

Outside of keeping employees and inmates safe, prison officials try to help more than 1,000 male inmates leave better than they came, mostly through educational and vocational programs.

“It’s very satisfying seeing some of these guys come in not being able to pound a nail and leaving here being able to frame a small playhouse or a house for that matter,” said Knutson.

The hope is that the inmates will have a basic understanding of building construction by the time they leave.

Inmates also get to learn upholstery skills.

According to one prison employee, there is about 125 in the garment shop, about 35 in the print shop, about 150 in a shop where they do some light assembly.

“The guys come out here they work hard. We’ve had great success out here. The guys are really innovative. It’s like anything, if you let the people do their job they’ll surprise you with the results,” said Larson.

“We believe it can help give some relief to the facilities by helping us to not return short-term violators back to the facilities. This will also help keep them in the community, better manage them, better supervise them there,” said Commissioner Paul Schnell, with the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Right now officials said Governor Walz’s newly-proposed budget offers $111 million from the Department of Corrections, money that would go toward helping Moose Lake prison solidify its foundation of security and add pro-social programming.

And looking toward the future, they’re hoping to reduce the prison population altogether.

Schnell said 95 percent of inmates will live in their communities again someday.

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