RED WING, Minn. — The Minneapolis Police Department's Community Engagement team spends time every Wednesday working with juveniles at the Red Wing Correctional Facility.
This week they focused on building four Little Free Libraries, and the residents will get to choose where they go. This program was funded by a grant that KARE 11 through the Tegna Foundation awarded the Little Free Library nonprofit organization.
Minneapolis Police Officer and Minnesota Police Officer of the year, Michael Kirchen, is one of the people who works hard to set residents up for success after they are released.
"I give them my cell phone and tell them to call me when they are out so I can help them with what they may need," Kirchen says. "I hope that building a positive relationship here will show them that they shouldn't be afraid of police officers when they are released."
Kirchen plans to meet one of the residents being released on Friday to provide him a bike and grab lunch in hopes that it will be a smooth transition. Kirchen says that 75 percent of those released will be repeat offenders. He hopes that the work that him and the team does will help reduce this number.
The Red Wing Correctional facility houses more than 78 juveniles and offers an accredited high school and PSEO courses to help keep the residents on track. Classes include woodworking and shop, in addition to, their normal classes to help them build skills they can use to get them a job after their sentence.
Branden Pedersen, a representative from the Little Free Library led this project and said, "The hope is that the Little Free Libraries will go in the communities that the juveniles are released to and that they can see the impact that they made today." Pedersen hopes that they take pride and ownership in this and their community.
To find a Little Free Library near you or to build your own, visit the Little Free Library's web page.