Men on Hunger Strike for “Clear Path Home” from Indefinite Detention

Overcoming Corruption Encouraging All Nations (OCEAN): January 26, 2021; Co-Founders Russell Hatton, Daniel Wilson in MSOP: 218-351-1900, ex 70887 or ex 106021 Coalition Contact: David Boehnke, dboehnke@gmail.com, 651-315-4222

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MOOSE LAKE, MN. Eleven men at the MN Sex Offender Program (MSOP) are on hunger strike for “a clear path home” from indefinite detention in facilities where “treatment is a death sentence”. 

According to a detainee group OCEAN (Overcoming Corruption Empowering All Nations), 86 men have died since the program started in 1994, while only 12 have been fully released, due to legal challenges. The program has two sites, in Moose Lake, and St Peter, Minnesota.  

Mike Whipple, on hunger strike since last Thursday, explained his struggle for freedom: “It was my understanding that I was to do the treatment, then be released. After 12 years later I’m still here, doing the same thing, over and over and over.” 

Russell Hatton, another striker, goes further, calling their mental health diagnosis “fraudulent” noting such confinement has been condemned by the American Psychological Association. Recent national research indicates racial minorities and LGBTQ people are twice as likely to be indefinitely detained in this way. 

According to the Department of Human Services, who oversee the program, 737 men are currently held indefinitely, at a cost of 96 million dollars for 2021, a daily cost of $393 per person, per day. 

On the DHS website it says MSOP “serves people who are court-ordered to receive sex offender treatment. After prison sentences are complete, courts may civilly commit individuals and place them in sex offender treatment for an unspecified period of time”. 

It is this “unspecified” length that the men object to most, saying it is in fact a “death sentence”. According to striker Daniel Wilson: “there is not even a policy on file for a graduation ceremony procedure. However….staff have even been putting up pictures of the deceased men on the wall to make sure that all are aware that another man has ‘graduated’ the program.”

Families too, bear the burden of indefinite detention. “It’s been years since he should have been home” says Merry Schoon, mother of a hunger striker. 

But to her, it isn’t just about those inside now: “This could happen to anybody’s kid. If we don’t stand up, anyone’s kids could be locked up forever for a so-called ‘mental illness’. This program needs to end, we need our children to come home.” 

MSOP families, ex-staff, and human rights organizations have created the End MSOP coalition to support these men coming home. They are circulating a petition, with an action coming up this Sunday. They can be contacted at endMSOP@gmail.com or facebook.com/endMSOP

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SOURCE: https://www.facebook.com/EndMSOP/posts/268615144607743

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