By Teri Cadeau . . . MOOSE LAKE, Minn. — Loud honks were heard Sunday, July 11, as protesters gathered outside of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program Moose Lake facility to support the residents in a hunger strike.
According to members of organizing groups Ocean and End MSOP, around 40 detainees inside the facility started a hunger strike on July 4 to call for an end to “an indefinite detention program they believe is an unconstitutional death sentence.” The strikers have put out calls for an executive order from Gov. Tim Walz or a sponsored bill to close the program.
“Our goal here today is to head over to the facility to honk and make some noise to let the people in there know that we care about them,” said David Boehnke, organizer from End MSOP. “We’re well into a hunger strike by the men in there and they’re calling for action to end this kind of detainment.”
MSOP houses approximately 743 sex offenders under court-ordered civil commitment for treatment, with about 450 at Moose Lake and nearly 300 at a facility in St. Peter. The program has been controversial since its inception in 1994, with courts granting only 14 full discharges and 45 provisional discharges over that time.
According to protesters, three of the hunger strikers were hospitalized as of Saturday and 28 remain on strike. Protesters also claim the facility has told detainees that it’s not considered an “official hunger strike unless they are refusing both food and water.
“We’ve already had four men on strike collapse, and two of them are still in the hospital today,” Boehnke said. “We have members of their families here today to show support for them as they continue on.”