Behind the Granite Wall: History of the St. Cloud Prison [VIDEO, PHOTOS]
ST. CLOUD — The St. Cloud Prison is nearing its 125 year anniversary. Commonly known as “Greystone College,” it’s home to nearly 1,000 inmates. It’s also considered to be the home to one of the largest prisoner-made stone walls in the world, and second in size only to The Great Wall of China.
The correctional facility in St. Cloud opened its doors in 1889, making it the third prison in Minnesota.
Over the years, murderers, felons and other criminals assembled the wall brick-by-brick from granite found inside the prison quarry.
The wall encloses about 200 square acres of land which at one point was used for farming. Inmates plowed, planted and maintained the fields as part of their vocational training for life after their release.
In addition to prison labor, inmates were allowed to take part in activities like softball. Stearns History Museum archivist, John Decker remembers going to the prison with his softball team to play against the inmates.
Over the years, the facility experienced a series of riots that resulted in changes to some of the policies. Decker says the prisoners fought for more freedoms, like increased recreation time.
Today, the correctional facility is the first stop for all incoming criminals who are assessed and usually sent to other prisons. Many of the former labor programs have been discontinued because of the changes to the St. Cloud Prison’s role in Minnesota’s correctional system and due to the high volume of inmate turnover every month.
Historical photos are courtesy of the Stearns History Museum.