In Minnesota, Security Changes Planned to Make a Prison Safer

Different locking mechanisms, review of surveillance system all part of process to update an outdated prison

But Warden Connie Roehrich lists several ongoing problems with the current design. Each of the many buildings is a bit different, making it tough to shuffle staff. The food service is inefficient and uses many serving locations. It's impossible to lock prisoners in their cells because the cells have no toilets. Guards can't always see all the prisoners in a building at any one time. The geriatric ward isn't designed for vulnerable prisoners. And the old buildings contain lead and asbestos.

The new buildings would be in a "K" design, which allows for lockable prisoner cells on three spokes. Officers could monitor prisoners from a centralized security pod where the three wards meet, allowing a lower guard-to-prisoner ratio and lower operating costs.

There would be one foodservice building, allowing for more efficient and quicker feeding of prisoners. And the geriatric ward would have a secure nursing home.

Corrections officials acknowledge that some Minnesotans might want their prisons to be tougher, not more comfortable. Roehrich counters that safer prisoners mean safer guards, and mutual respect benefits everyone inside - and those outside - prison walls.

"You still have got to treat people like humans," she said.

© 2005 Associated Press