Criminal justice students in Janell Trocke’s Evidence-based Corrections and Security Threat Groups in Criminal Justice classes from Minnesota School of Business-Elk River (MSB) headed up to Rush City Correctional Facility to take a tour and learn about the career opportunities available.
The students had an incredible experience touring and learning about the facility. They explained that everything that they have learned throughout their educational experience rang true during the tour. The students felt that they could relate to and understand what was being said because of what they have been learning in class.
The tour was led by Kristin Lang, correctional security case manager, and Joe Winiecki, MINNCOR industry director. The group was also able to meet Greg Smith, the associate warden of operations, who shared some information about the prison before the group went on the tour.
The facility was built in 2000 and houses 1,000 male inmates who have been convicted of a variety of crimes ranging from theft to homicide. There are approximately 360 staff members that hold a variety of positions (corrections officer, case manager, food service employee, teacher, etc). The building also has its own power and there is a water tower on site which makes it nearly self-sufficient.
The corrections process has evolved over the years. Gone are the days of locking an offender up and throwing away the key. Society has created a need for a new model in which offenders are supported and educated from admission to release and beyond. The goal is to help offenders to rehabilitate and to reduce recidivism.
Rush City follows this model with the system and programs that they provide. One unique program that is available to offenders is the opportunity to work with rescue dogs on a volunteer basis. The offenders are able to keep the animals in their cells and work with them on a volunteer basis until they are adopted as long as the inmate continues to comply with the directives of the program. This is a great opportunity for the offenders to demonstrate their growth and commitment to rehabilitation. It also provides the offender with much-needed therapy and companionship.
A unique partnership with MINNCOR Industries provides an opportunity for offenders to work and gain valuable job skills as they complete projects such as wood working, packaging, painting, metal work, etc. for small and large local businesses. Student, Amy Skog, explained that she was impressed by MINNCOR and “their role with training, teaching job skills, and rehabilitation” of the offenders.
Jake Balsimo, another criminal justice student, said that he noticed “the pride that the inmates took in their jobs” as the group toured the area where the inmates worked.
The money generated by the work that the inmates do and the partnerships that MINNCOR has developed with a variety of companies contributes to the prison’s self-sufficiency so that it does not rely on tax dollars. The funds go directly back into the facility to fund programs, pay for needed supplies, and to pay offender’s room and board. The inmates also receive compensation which they can use to pay for personal items.
“I was very impressed with the layout of the facility, with MINNCOR, and with the professionalism and enthusiasm of the staff members,” explained Wendy Brown, criminal justice student, after the tour was done.
The students in the group agreed and shared their mutual appreciation of the experience to tour the facility. They look forward to the opportunity to tour another correctional facility in the future.