Shakopee, Minn. — The women's prison at Shakopee, southwest of the Twin Cities, looks like a suburban high school. There are no guard towers, no walls, no coils of razor wire fences around the brown brick buildings.
Sunlight streams through windows and skylights onto pastel colored walls and carpeted hallways. Youthful inmates, many dressed in T-shirts and blue jeans, stream by on their way to work, to a classroom, to the gym, or their room. There are no cells.
Prison has been Kris Megenuph's home for nearly six months.
"In '99 I got pulled over with some merchandise. I got a felony for receiving stolen property, and then I've had two years on probation with some violations. So it brought me here for a year and a day," Megenuph says.
Kris Megenuph says her life became complicated early, because she became a parent while still a teenager.
Being in here has been a lesson to learn for me, and I don't want to come back here ... I'm going to do my best this time, to make a better life for my girls and my family.
"I met my boyfriend when I was 14, so I kind of had a child at a young age," she says. "So we've been just kind of raising our family the past 10 years."
Megenuph, 25, is a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Her quick smile and sparkling eyes offer no hint of a life dependent on drugs.
"It was crack I was doing. That's probably what got me here, trying to go out and steal to supply my habit. But it all falls on you afterwards," Megenuph says.
Kris Megenuph's boyfriend and two daughters visited her once a week while she was in prison.
When Megenuph is released, she's required to check in with her case worker every week and take 60 days of drug treatment.
"Being in here has been a lesson to learn for me, and I don't want to come back here," Megenuph says. "I'm on parole for four months. I'm not saying that'll I'll be bad in four months again. But I'm going to do my best this time, to make a better life for my girls and my family."
Kris Megenuph was released last summer. She had a place to live, and she says her boyfriend had a job to support the family. Her Hennepin County corrections case worker says she followed through with all the court-ordered requirements.
The day after Megenuph's supervision was over, she and her family moved from Minneapolis and left no forwarding address. Minnesota Public Radio has been unable to contact her. A check of public records showed she's not back in a Minnesota prison, a fate that befalls as many as one-fourth of the state's inmates once they're released.