To find records for an individual who was an inmate at a Minnesota State Correctional Institution it is helpful to have the following information:
You can search for an inmate using only their name, but your search will be much easier if you have more information before you start.
Inmate name: The name you should search for is their name at the time of admission. For women you should search under their maiden name as well as a married name if you do not know the date of admission. Also, have a few variations of spelling for the name. Many of the records are handwritten and names may be misspelled or mis-transcribed.
Inmate birth date: This is helpful to differentiate between patients with common names.
Inmate date of death: This will help determine if the record is under access restrictions or is open to view.
If you know someone was in a correctional institution, here are some things to consider:
How old were they at the time of the conviction?
Is the person male or female?
Were they tried in a Minnesota court or a federal court?
Prison records contain private information and are generally restricted for 75 years from the date of the last entry in the record or file. If the record you are requesting will be restricted under this guideline, you should apply for permission to access the records.
Use the Access to Restricted Records for Individuals form to apply for access to restricted prison records. You should also submit the appropriate supporting documentation, as listed on the form. This documentation may include:
Applications may be submitted by email attachment or regular mail. Once we receive your application, it will be reviewed by our permissions staff and you will be informed--usually via email--if your application is granted or denied.
If you are doing general (non-indvidual specific) research into Minnesota state prisons here are some search tips:
Search the library catalog using the name of the prison (ex: Stillwater State Prison) and select the "State Government Records" option on the dropdown menu.
Some of the records you may find will include: architectural drawings, farm records, warden's subject files and correspondence, inventories, photographs, subject files, financial records, and annual reports.
You can also search for the administrative agencies that provided oversight to the prisons, including the State Board of Corrections and Charities and later the Department of Corrections. For more information on administrative agencies, click here.
Pardon records can be found by searching in the library catalog for the records of the Minnesota Governor at the time of the pardon.
Some useful collections involving pardons are:
Pardon Application Registers, 1897-1934
Registers of applications for pardon or commutation of sentence submitted to the Pardon Board by inmates of state, and some county and local, correctional institutions. They consist of filled-in forms, one for each separate application (many inmates submitted several applications at various times).
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (Pardon Board).
Pardon Applications, 1889-1988
Application forms or letters formally requesting a pardon or commutation of sentence; letters, petitions, and/or affidavits in support and/or opposition; recommendations of the prosecuting attorney, trial judge, and/or trial jury; and sometimes trial transcripts, other background items, additional documentation submitted by the requestor, or other supporting papers.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid
Pardon Calendars, 1897-1992
Minutes of the Board of Pardons, largely comprising a record of actions on individual pardon applications, although other actions of the board are also mentioned. The pardon applications are often discussed in some detail.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid