By Rachel Leber
FARIBAULT, Minn. — The Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF) in Faribault is a working prison, which means all inmates are expected to perform labor five days a week. The facility has had a woodworking program since 1989 as part of the inmate labor requirements, and the latest assignment for inmates is to help The Rice County Historical Society — a non-profit in Faribault — to preserve its 1869 Holy Innocents Church.
The church is nearly 150 years old and needs new doors, as the original ones are damaged. The prison woodworking program has been tasked with building new doors for the church at a significantly reduced price, creating a win-win situation for the inmates as well as the non-profit. The prison will charge the church for materials, but will not charge for labor, as inmates are only paid between up to $1 per hour for their work.
As for the inmates, there is a sense of pride developed in being able to contribute in such a way, according to Karen Sorenson, associate warden of administration at the Department of Corrections in a recent interview with Faribault.com. “These programs not only give them some skill and education, but a sense of empowerment that they can learn something new and take that with them when they leave,” said Sorenson.
The goal of the program is to teach inmates something while incarcerated, in order to be successful upon their release. The woodworking program — referred to as ‘cabinetry’ — is one of 13 MINNCOR programs available to the 2,025 inmates at MCF. The facility hosts MINNCOR programming, facilitated by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, the results of which provides manufactured goods and services to thousands of government, educational, nonprofit and private companies. Faribault resident Todd Paquette has served as the full-time instructor for the woodworking program since its inception in 1989 when the prison was first established.
Within the woodworking program, there are three progressive sub-programs students can take: a basic cabinetry certificate, a cabinet-making diploma and an advanced cabinet-making certificate. The prison has partnered with Century College in White Bear Lake, Minn., on the program, which provides matching certificates/diplomas based on credits the offenders earn.