Hunger strike to end at sex offender treatment program in Moose Lake

Hunger strike protesters call on Minnesota to abolish its sex offender program, citing lack of "treatment," "health care" and "hope."

File: MSOP protest
David Boehnke, of End MSOP, talks to the family members and fellow protesters in the parking lot of a McDonald's near the Minnesota Sexual Offenders Program facility in Moose Lake on July 11, 2021. (Teri Cadeau / File / News Tribune)

Those detained at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program Moose Lake facility protesting the treatment center's low release rate will end their two-week hunger strike after two seizures and four hospitalizations.

The strike will end Sunday when dozens gather at the Minnesota Capitol and Governor's Mansion to carry out the protest.

“We have done our part, for now,” hunger striker Russell Hatton said in a news release from the organizing groups, Ocean and End MSOP. “It is time for families, legislatures and the public to do what anyone who has looked into this program knows is right — end preventative detention, end MSOP."

PREVIOUSLY: Officials dispute numbers after Moose Lake Sex Offender Program protest Clients and their supporters are calling for an end to the state program which discharges few of the hundreds of the men it locks up.
Family members, advocates and legislators will gather on the Capitol lawn at 1 p.m. Sunday before rallying at the Governor's Mansion at 3:30 p.m. The events will be livestreamed on the End MSOP's Facebook page.

Hatton said in an audio recording shared in a news release that he suffered two seizures after 10 days of no water and food while protesting what he characterized as "human deprivation" and "violation of our human rights" in the facility. He was transported to Essentia Health-Moose Lake for a few hours before he was returned to the facility.


"Hopefully, senators and Republicans and Gov. Walz understand how serious this issue is," Hatton said. "It's frustrating when people don't actually see what's going on here. We're to get the public to be aware."

About 740 people are detained in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, with about 450 in Moose Lake and nearly 300 in St. Peter. The program started in 1994 as a treatment center and often houses people who have completed their prison sentences for an "unspecified period of time," according to the program's website.

Because of that, many remain detained with no hope of ever graduating from the program.

"We're fed up. Guys are starting to hurt themselves as a result of not eating, or drinking water in some cases," hunger striker Dan Wilson said. "The reason for this is because the facility is killing us ... people are dropping like flies, so this is our last chance to survive this institution."

The program, which has operated for 26 years, has seen 88 deaths and 14 releases, according to Ocean and End MSOP. This is the second hunger strike Moose Lake MSOP residents have held this year as they demand that Minnesota legislators come together to abolish preventative detention.

Wilson has been held at the Moose Lake facility for four years.

"There's no health care here," Wilson said. "There's no treatment. There's no hope."

The Minnesota House of Representatives has scheduled a hearing on the issues for Aug. 2.


“We believe education is the key to this issue,” Wilson said. “If people knew that preventative detention makes no one safer and causes incredible costs to taxpayers, families and detainees, we believe they would choose to end this program."

Since the January hunger strike, detainees have had four monthly meetings with MSOP administration, Wilson said.

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