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Inmate escape reignites security concerns at Shakopee women's prison

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The mayor of Shakopee is calling for more security at the state's only women's prison after an inmate escaped Monday night.

According to Mayor Brad Tabke's blog, around 7 p.m., a prisoner got out of the facility for about 23 minutes before she was located in a nearby residential neighborhood and taken back into custody.

No one was hurt. The incident is under investigation.

Tabke calls the escape "entirely preventable."

"This prison is regrettably located in a residential area and has no fence on its perimeter," Tabke says. "When escapes happen at a prison with no fence that houses nonviolent and violent criminals, today’s event is the best possible outcome."

Tabke says for years, the state Legislature has denied funding requests by the Minnesota Department of Corrections to build a fence surrounding the prison, which is also located across the street from an elementary school, according to Shakopee Valley News.

The Shakopee facility, which opened in 1986, has never had a fence along the 4,300-foot perimeter, only a hedge.

Shakopee Warden Tracy Beltz told KARE 11 last year that as many as seven inmates have escaped from the facility since 1995. Beltz says some offenders that have attempted to escape are housed out of state because the facility has no means of securing them.

As part of a cost reciprocity agreement, a female inmate is sent to an out-of-state prison in exchange for a male inmate to be housed in a Minnesota facility.

"We can't do a female-to-female exchange. No other state will send us a female because we don't have a fence," Beltz told KARE 11.

The television station reported a $5.4 million proposal for a wrought-iron fence with brick posts that includes technology to detect suspicious activity was left out of the 2012 bonding bill.

Mayor Tabke hopes the proposal will fare better in the 2014 legislative session.

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Neighbor opposition in 2006 killed the idea of a new, more secure fence around the women's prison in Shakopee. Currently a hedge is all that keeps any potential escapees inside the grounds. Now corrections officials are thinking of making another try for state funding.

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