Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault (MCF-Faribault) a state prison. The prison in Faribault is now the largest state prison in Minnesota. Over 2,000 men serve out their sentences in the combined minimum and medium-secured facility.
I visited the prison after being invited to an event focused on Restorative Justice. According to a fact sheet published by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, Restorative Justice "is an opportunity for those affected by a crime – the victim, offender and community – to repair the harm caused by the crime through participation in a restorative practice promoting healing."
My total time in MCF-Faribault lasted an hour.
Members of the Restorative Justice Committee in Faribault - inmates - were donating $1,000 to Minnesotans for Safe Driving, an organization focused on helping "all victims of traffic crashes and educate
the public to the dangers of drunk driving and distractive driving." I was invited by Minnesotans for Safe Driving's founder, Jon Cummings, to attend the event where a check would be presented by the inmates.
Cummings had been to the prison before as the inmates had previously supported his organization. One of inmates had even made wooden easels for Cummings to use during his presentations about the dangers of drinking and driving.
By design, walking into a prison is not a simple, relaxing process. Eventually, I was led into big room with high cement walls and plastic chairs. I sat with approximately 20 inmates, for almost 30 minutes, and I listened to them talk about why they believe in Restorative Justice.
I was nervous, as this had been my first experience speaking with inmates in a prison. But after a few moments, I felt very comfortable as I learned from inmates why they spend their unlimited time and limited personal financial resources on Restorative Justice.
The inmates who participate in the prison's Restorative Justice program do not receive a reduction in their prison sentences. The work of the inmates is all voluntary because the inmates believe so strongly in the program. Before the inmates can serve on the committee, they are required to take a class to learn about the principles of Restorative Justice.
Cummings was proud to receive a contribution and of the work done by the prison staff and inmates on Restorative Justice. "If the inmates did something bad, everyone would know. It's only fair people know about the good things they do," said Cummings.
After the event concluded, I walked around the room and spoke with each inmate. I felt very fortunate for being able to attend the event. I learned there is more going on in a prison than keeping people in cells.
Picture source: Minnesota Department of Corrections