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”.