FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 8.17.21
Contact: Detainees & OCEAN Co-Founders Russell Hatton; Daniel Wilson: 218-351-1900, ex 70887; 106021; End MSOP Coalition Contact: David Boehnke, 651-315-4222, firstname.lastname@example.org
Long Weekend Protest Rocks Minnesota’s Shadow Prisons
MOOSE LAKE MN. Behind barbed wire fences a protest movement is swelling for an end to Minnesota’s Shadow Prisons, “treatment facilities” that detainees say are an unconstitutional death sentence. Nearly 800 people are held indefinitely outside of any criminal proceedings, after finishing prison sentences or without being convicted of a crime on civil allegations of being “mental ill” and “sexually dangerous”.
Since Friday, and culminating in a protest led by detainees in walkers and wheelchairs this Monday, over a hundred detainees across racial lines have staged four days of protest marches inside Moose Lake’s Shadow Prison. While carefully staying within facility rules, protests have featured boisterous chants of “What do we want? To come home!” to intentional silence, songs, poetry, and a reading of the 88 names of those who have died in treatment.
“We’re doing everything our power to handle this the right way, but we’re dying left and right, a person every 40 days for the last five years” says Daniel Wilson, a detainee at the Moose Lake facility. “This is not treatment, in 26 years Minnesota taxpayers have spent over a billion dollars for 14 full releases and 88 deaths”.
The movement has also shown up in an avalanche of detainee made signs, armbands, necklaces, t-shirts and homemade protest art demanding the facility close. Art-making has been targeted by staff with threats and write ups, with at least one person receiving a 21 day sentence for making a protest sign. Staff say speaking against the facility is “counter-therapeutic”.
This level of protest is unprecedented within Minnesota’s Shadow Prisons, and come after detainee hunger strikes in January and July, high profile scandals regarding sexual assault of detainees by a therapist, a statewide protest at the capitol, and an August 2nd legislative hearing, featuring Nancy Johnston, the head of Minnesota’s Shadow Prison, and Eric Janus, a professor and national expert.
Johnston, multiple times repeated that “Minnesota has the biggest program in the country” while Janus summarized decades of Minnesota legislative reports and research this way: “there is a broad consensus that the current system…captures too many people and keeps many of them too long”.
OCEAN a detainee group, and the family-led End MSOP Coalition seek a phased closing of the Shadow Prisons, reinvesting its 96 million a year budget into effective and constitutional responses to sexual violence. They hope to make Minnesota the 31st state without Shadow Prisons, drawing inspiration from legislation introduced in both houses in Virginia last year.
They also have a rally planned for outside the Shadow Prison at St Peter on Sunday, August 29th, at 1:30pm. Find more information at facebook.com/EndMSOP, tinyurl.com/EndMSOP, and thevoicesofocean.net.