Neighbors of the Minnesota prison for women in the Minneapolis suburb of Shakopee still oppose the idea of erecting a 12-foot fence around the facility, says the New York Times. Officials say is the nation’s only prison with a maximum-security wing and no perimeter wall. The prison now holds 79 killers and 5 kidnappers among its 496 inmates. Warden Rick Hillengass counts seven escapes – or walkaways, as even he calls them – in the past 10 years.
Corrections officials say the neighbors are ignoring a new reality: more women are in prison now, and they are more violent. While there are still 13 times as many men as there are women in prison, the women’s population is growing faster. Nationally, the number of women grew an average of 4.7 percent a year from 1995 to 2004; in Minnesota, the increase averaged 10.8 percent a year. The population at Shakopee, the state’s only prison for women, has doubled since 1998. While nationally men are more likely than women to be in prison for violent crimes, violent offenders accounted for half the growth in female prisoners from 2001 to 2004, says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. While the number of men arrested for violent crimes declined 20 percent from 1995 to 2004, say FBI data, the number of women arrested for such crimes increased by 3 percent.