St. Cloud is home to the Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF-St. Cloud), better known locally as the “Reformatory,” and Minnesota School of Business criminal justice students recently toured the site to learn more about the prison environment and its wide variety of employment opportunities.
Originally built in 1898 and the oldest facility in the state, the imposing granite structure currently serves as an intake center for offenders to be processed and evaluated before being sent to another facility. That prisoners do not actually serve their time here came as a surprise to students and staff.
Admissions Representative Ashley Nieland attended the tour to learn more about employment opportunities for criminal justice students.
“I did not know that it was a transfer facility,” she said. “I was surprised to find out that individuals are usually there for ninety days or less.”
Criminal justice student Aleasha Narloch agreed that what she expected at the facility and what she actually learned were not at all the same.
“I think the most interesting part about the prison tour was how different I pictured it would be to how it actually is. There are some things I never thought they would be able to have or do, and they can, such as: vending machines, TVs, game systems, etc., and some things they can’t do which I figured they would such as sitting where they want and sitting by their visitors.”
“I thought they would have had more guards in certain areas, and I thought they would also be carrying Tasers,” admitted Criminal justice student Tyler Graham-Wells.
There’s a big difference between reality and “what they have seen on TV and movies,” says Criminal Justice Program Chair Laurie Rosas.
The history of the institution also fascinated the visitors.
“I was very intrigued by the facility itself,” said Nieland, “Everything was built by inmates and the granite wall is the second longest in the entire world.”
In terms of connecting classroom experience with career goals, Narloch found the tour to be invaluable. “It helped me realize actually how big of a range of jobs there are and how easily some can come. It’s nice to know how things are done and see it firsthand.”
“It takes a very special type of person to handle working inside a prison,” explains Rosas. Introducing students to Corrections Officer Chad McGraw was
instrumental in students understanding the job.
“Chad stressed that the criminal justice field needs people who can communicate effectively, remain level-headed under stress and have the ability to treat the offenders professionally, fairly, firmly and consistently,” Rosas said.
And students listened.
“I think I could see myself working here as a guard,” said Grahm-Wells.
Narloch added, “I plan on emailing him [McGraw] about the jobs and what he would recommend me starting off as so I can have some experience on my application.”
Ronnie Kankaala greatly appreciated the experience. “As an admissions representative, it gave me access to real world career possibilities for the students.”
“From the moment we pulled into the parking lot to the moment we left was all interesting,” she summarized. “The process and procedure for every aspect of the inmate’s day and stay was fascinating.”
It’s all a day in the life of this correctional institution and these future criminal justice professionals.