MCF-Shakopee Offenders Replace Gravestones in Local Cemetry

Restorative Project Provides Dignity for People Buried Only With OID Numbers


Last month, offenders from the Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF)-Shakopee provided some final dignity for four people buried decades ago in a local cemetery with only offender ID numbers to mark their passing.

Offenders at the MCF-Shakopee recently learned of the unmarked graves, located in Shakopee's St. Marks Cemetery, which is on former prison property. Prison staff helped to identify who was buried there - two offenders and two infant children of offenders from the old State Reformatory for Women, three of whom died in the 1920s. The fourth died in 1954.

Over the last few months, offenders committed to raising funds to purchase four proper headstones for the cemetery. Through freewill offerings, offenders raised enough money to purchase the markers, and offenders in the Challenge Incarceration Program placed each headstone at an event  on Nov. 18.

Department of Corrections (DOC) Commissioner Tom Roy, in the Nov. 18 ceremony at the cemetery, said he hoped the dedication of the new gravestones for the deceased would "give value to their lives, regardless of their circumstance or the passing of time." Also in attendance at the event was Tracy Beltz, warden of the MCF-Shakopee, and other DOC staff, as well as former Shakopee mayor Duane “Farmer” Marschall and his wife Sue, who are neighbors of the facility. Farmer is on the MCF-Shakopee’s Community Advisory Board.

The full text of Commissioner Roy’s speech is below:

“Today we acknowledge four almost-forgotten souls. Many decades ago they found themselves in circumstances of life that we will never know in great detail. We will not know of their experiences, their stories, or their struggles. We do know, though, that the end of their life came while in the care of the State of Minnesota and with people like you here today. Their lives clearly were not lived to their greatest potential, their dreams and aspirations probably unfulfilled. But they did walk the face of this earth, breathe this air as we do now, so many years later. They did most likely put a smile on a mother’s face, and had some moments of joy and happiness.

Like so many other humans of days gone by, they have slipped into the dust of time, into this ground before us. They were probably not forgiven by some nor held in the warm arms of family at the time of their passing.

So let the placement of these headstones, and the work of these women and staff here today, commemorate and give value to their lives, regardless of circumstance or the passing of time.”