State Prisons: Historical Inmate Records

Historical inmate and employee records from Minnesota State Prisons

Red Wing Training School for Boys & Girls

The Red Wing State Training School is the second oldest correctional institution in the state, established as the House of Refuge by an act of the Legislature in 1866. When the school first opened in St. Paul in 1868, it was renamed the State Reform School.

Because of crowded conditions and the need for additional buildings, a committee was appointed in 1887 to suggest a new site for the school. A new school was completed in 1891 on a 450-acre site two miles east of Red Wing. It consisted of an administrative building, three cottages, one dormitory, a power house, workshop, and barn. In 1895, the name of the school was changed to the State Training School for Boys and Girls.

The provided education and training in an effort to reform delinquent boys (through age sixteen) and girls (through age fifteen). Boys were instructed in trades and exercised in military drills, and girls were taught sewing, cooking, laundering, and other general housework skills. The school had no religious affiliation but conducted religious and moral instruction through clergy of various denominations.

The majority of inmates during the first 30 years of the school’s existence were homeless, neglected, and dependent children, mainly boys from the ages of nine to fourteen, and the school often served as a substitute foster home. Many were children of immigrants, and generally very poor. Stealing and unmanageable behavior were the most common reasons for commitment. Later laws stipulated that children be committed when convicted by the courts of a crime, except that of murder, which was punishable by imprisonment. In the early 1900s, the average length of time spent at the school by an inmate was about one year. Entering inmates ranged in age from eight to sixteen years, and remained at the school until they reached age twenty-one, or until discharged.

In 1911, the girls at the school were transferred to the Minnesota Home School for Girls in Sauk Centre, and the school at Red Wing became an institution for delinquent boys only, renamed the Minnesota Training School for Boys.

In 1979, the name was changed to the Minnesota Correctional Facility—Red Wing. The facility presently serves as the diagnostic treatment center for boys from the metropolitan and eastern regions of Minnesota who have been declared delinquent and committed by the state.

State Training School, Red Wing, Minnesota
Red Wing, Minn.: s.n., 192-?
MNHS call number: HV9105.M62 S73 1920z

The History of the State Training School, by Orville B. Pung.
MNHS call number: HV9105.M62 P86 1969

Some inmate records for the Minnesota Correctional Facility—Red Wing can be viewed in person at the library. Our full State Correctional Institution (Prison) Records Request is currently unavailable but we are offering a State Correctional Institution (Prison) Index Search Request in order to assist researchers in the first stage of their record search. 

Inmate Records

To order a prison records index search for an individual visit our Correctional Institution (Prison) Records Request

Inmate Case Files, 1915-1963
Arranged in two alphabetical series: A-Z, 1915-1955; A-Z, 1955-1963.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Inmate Case Files and Commitment Papers, 1868-1917
Institutional case files and commitment papers for boys and girls considered to be delinquents by the state of Minnesota. Initially, inmates were homeless, neglected, and dependent children (mostly boys ages nine to fourteen). In 1895 a court conviction for crime (except murder) became a prerequisite, and beginning in 1911 the facility housed delinquent boys only.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Inmate History Records, 1868-1923
Variously titled as "History Book," "Record of Commitment and History of Inmates," and "Statistical Record," with some overlap for 1868-1884, and no record at all for 1893-1897. Includes girls’ histories for 1867-1908. The "Statistical Record" was begun in 1902, apparently when the Board of Control established it as the uniform registration record for all state institutions, and was maintained until 1923. The most detailed of records in this series, it contains, for each inmate, personal description, family data, and information relating to the circumstances of admission, residence, and discharge.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Patient Registers and Indexes- Red Wing, 1889-1924
Part of the Minnesota Division of Public Institutions Series
Alphabetical index by inmate name, and statistical record that may include admission date, inmate's name and residence, relative, gender, age, and history.  
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

Parole Records, 1895-1962
Record of parolees and returns (1895-1942) and parole calendars (1920-1935), both with detailed information on inmates paroled each month. Also parole and discharge papers (1909-1951), parole expenses (1930-1939), and a statistical recapitulation of parolees, returns and discharges (1927-1962).
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Admission and Discharge Records, 1890-1993
Daily records of admissions and discharges from the school; information recorded includes inmate number, name, where received from or sent to, and summary statistics for each month. Also included are registers labeled Adults (1979-1991) and discharge lists (1905-1949). The latter were received from the State Board of Control and list those to be discharged, with brief histories.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Miscellaneous Inmate Records, 1925-1997
​Records containing information on individual inmates, including lists of attempted escapes (1925-1997, incomplete), corporal punishment study files (1925-1945) and books (1933-1948), psychological test results (1927-1940), record of boys released for work (1955-1959), and information on individuals who spent time at both the Training School and the St. Cloud Reformatory (1929-1938).
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Note: These records include private information about individuals. Records with private information are closed for 75 years from date of last entry in the record and occasionally 100 years due to sensitive and/or third-party data. Researchers must apply for permission to use these records.  Click here for more information on accessing restricted records. 

Employee Records

Minnesota Department of Public Institutions Personnel Service Records- Red Wing Training School for Boys, 1934-1938.
Cards listing employee name, address, position, salary, brief statement of duties, data on previous state service, education, training, and personal and family information.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (Social Security Department: Public Institutions Division).

Financial Records, 1901-1940
​General ledger and corresponding journal (1901-1906), cash book (1909-1916), employee daily time record (1901-1921), and payroll register (1934-1940).
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Note: These records include private information about individuals. Records with private information are closed for 75 years from date of last entry in the record. Researchers must apply for permission to use these records.  Click here for more information on accessing restricted records. 

Other Records

Published Records, 1919-1999
​Manuals and handbooks, newsletters, building fund and capital improvement requests, studies, reports, guides, theses, and various print materials documenting the institution’s programs, activities, and history. Topics covered include case management, rules, employees, security, funding, guided group interaction, positive peer culture, delinquency, sanitation, probation, parole, discipline, operant conditioning, African Americans and Indians at the school, vocational training, and facilities surveys. Included are incomplete series of three school related newsletters: The Centennial Cornerstone, Voices on Campus, and WINGED’ition.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

The Riverside
Red Wing, Minn.: Minnesota State Training School for Boys, 1936-
Aug. 31, 1893-Feb. 1967
MNHS call number: Microfilm 2063 1936-1940
MNHS call numberFOLIO HV9105.M62 A1r

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