Shakopee Prison Escape Fuels Debate about Security Fences

Updated: 12/04/2013 7:51 AM By: Todd Wilson

A woman serving a sentence for attempting to escape from authorities in Hennepin County was able to escape from the women's prison in Shakopee Monday. Although she was quickly recaptured, the escape is raising questions.

Larry Burgess has lived in his house for 55 years. He lives exactly two blocks away from the Shakopee prison for women and says he has no problems with the facility. "They have sufficient enough guards there to take care of it," he said.

Angel Benjamin made a run for it Monday. She was found 23 minutes later hiding under a bush behind a house at 10th and Prentice. She is the eighth woman to escape the prison since 1995.

Some of Burgess' neighbors think fencing is needed, but not him. "I don't really think they need one. And if they put one up it's going to make the property around it go down."

Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke says Monday's escape was preventable. Right now there are 653 inmates at the prison. Tabke says 191 of them are "hardcore" criminals, "whether that is being in for murder or sexual assault or first degree felonies."

The fence debate has dragged on for nearly a decade.

Last legislative session, Senator Julianne Ortman co-authored a bonding bill to raise $5.7 million for the project.

"It includes a security fence around the entire facility. It is intended to make it acceptable to the local communities. It also has some underground technology to make sure people stay away from that fence," she said.

The bill is now in the hands of the Capital Investment Committee; it will be taken up again this coming session.

Burgess says it's all a waste of money and time. "I don't see a reason to put the fence up," he said.