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Shakopee volunteers help inmates and offenders in the community.

Volunteers at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee, a women's facility, are a dedicated group of people who perform a number of valuable services to help staff and inmates.

The use of volunteers is heavily concentrated in the facility's programs department. There are essentially three categories of volunteers: interns, institution volunteers and custody volunteers. Interns are unpaid students completing course requirements, institution volunteers assist staff and help run various counseling groups, and custody volunteers provide custody of inmates in the community.


Some interns come from the Alfred Adler Institute, a graduate school in Minnesota. The interns help staff run discussion groups and also provide one-to-one counseling. Interns are assigned to staff throughout the institution to help them with casework, recreation and classes on chemical dependency or parenting. Last year, an intern with a recreational background concentrated on a wellness program for the staff.

Counseling is provided through the auspices of the Neighborhood Involvement Program (NIP), a United Way-funded group that brings graduate students completing degrees in social work and psychology into the facility. For every one-and-a-half hours that the program director spends supervising the interns, 25 inmates are seen on a one-to-one basis.

The advantages of using interns include having professional and dedicated people providing important services on a level the institution would not be able to afford. The only disadvantage is having to schedule around the interns' availability.

Chaplaincy Volunteers

Chaplaincy volunteers are a prime example of institution volunteers. According to Cathy McDonald, our chaplain, "Most of the chapel services here are conducted by volunteers. They are committed to the women and to serve."

We have two retreat ministries. The larger one is called Charis, and it involves almost 50 inmates. Once a year, close to 100 volunteers organize this three-and-a-half-day Christian experience within our facility. The second retreat ministry is called Apple Retreat Ministries, and it is conducted by three volunteers. This is a 12-hour experience that involves up to 12 participants.

A group of chaplaincy volunteers recently conducted a three-evening revival. The average attendance each evening was 25. In any given month, at least 13 volunteer groups conduct chapel services or study groups. Some groups rotate during the year. For example, the fourth Sunday evening services are conducted by a rotation of area Lutheran clergy. Chaplain McDonald credits the volunteers with helping provide a wide variety of services to a diverse population.

The chaplaincy category is particularly important because of the large numbers of volunteers involved and because many volunteers who have their initial contact with MCF-Shakopee through religious programs eventually expand the scope of their contribution.

Project Interaction

Project Interaction Inc. is a small foundation that has provided opportunities to the women of MCF-Shakopee for many years. One of the group's major contributions was the installation of a prison boutique where needy inmates may obtain clothing donated by the community and other inmates.

Project Interaction also provides financial assistance to enable women to take courses at nearby educational institutions. It has paid for instructors to teach courses at the facility and has bought computers for the classes. This year, Project Interaction is paying for a photography instructor as well as purchasing books and equipment for the photography class. The group's achievements and long-standing commitment is truly impressive.

Recreation and Education

An underlying philosophy of MCF-Shakopee is that the inmates need to maintain contact with the community and to be exposed to the many positive opportunities available in our area. The facility's education and recreation departments offer activities away from the institution to accomplish this goal.

The recreation department uses volunteers in a variety of ways. Trained custody volunteers provide the core of the escort services necessary for attendance at plays, sporting events and hiking and fishing trips.

Volunteers are always welcome to participate in facility activities. Their attendance helps motivate and encourage the women. The volunteers have the opportunity to become familiar with the facility's operation and to meet the women before taking them off grounds.

The education department uses volunteers primarily to provide custody on field trips for inmates taking art, photography and horticulture classes. Volunteers also escort inmates to nearby educational institutions to enroll in classes or attend special events or workshops.

We frequently receive offers from volunteers interested in tutoring. Last year, a volunteer helped a woman who was taking a statistics course as part of her independent study toward a college degree.

Fostering Relationships

We are fortunate to have outside organizations that match up volunteers to our inmates. Amicus and the Friend-to-Friend Program both help foster one-to-one relationships. Volunteers from these groups are put on the inmate's visiting list and are encouraged to communicate with them regularly. The success of these programs is evident in the many close relationships that have resulted from these pairings.

We believe the women need to maintain relationships with their family members and friends to provide a support network for them after release. It is important for them to have some idea of how to function in the outside world. To that end, inmates may earn the privilege of scheduling activities off grounds, usually in increments of two, four or six hours. The time allowed is connected to their security level, which also determines if they need to be escorted by staff or a volunteer.

These are just some of the ways volunteers help out at MCF-Shakopee. We have volunteers who teach guitar, send cookies at Christmas and help run support groups for organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The support our staff members provide and the appreciation of the inmates make the facility a very special environment where high achievement is the common goal.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee
Author:Masin, Sandra
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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