A dozen men held at a sex offender treatment center in Moose Lake, Minnesota ended a 14-day hunger strike after state officials agreed to meet with the men and discuss their demand for a “clear pathway” for release from the program, which confines sex offenders indefinitely after they have completed their criminal sentences, reported The Dobb's Wire.
A dozen men who had stopped eating called off the hunger strike after Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead offered to hold monthly meetings between the strikers and leaders of the state sex offender program.
The purpose of the meetings will be to discuss the strikers' primary complaint: They have no "clear pathway" for release from the program and its prison-like treatment centers in Moose Lake and St. Peter.
The strike was organized to protest Minnesota's civil commitment system, which confines hundreds of rapists and other sexual offenders long after their prison terms. Some men have been held at the Moose Lake facility for years or even decades, effectively turning civil commitment into what they describe as a life sentence.
The strikers and other detainees maintain that the state program is more focused on warehousing offenders than treating them, and they have demanded that officials increase the program's historically low rate of release.
The protest organizers had been refusing food since Jan. 21. Several of the men said in interviews that they were prepared to be hospitalized or starve to death if the state did not respond to their demands.
By early this week, the strikers reported feeling muscle pains, dizziness, nausea and rapid weight loss from lack of nourishment, according to organizers.
The men finally called off the protest and resumed eating after Harpstead offered to hold the monthly listening sessions, which are expected to begin this month and last through May.
Under the agreement, the Department of Human Services (DHS) will develop a report on the state sex offender program at the end of the discussions and produce recommendations. The agency has not made any commitments to specific changes.
"I am relieved that no one was seriously hurt or died, but this system of indefinite confinement has gone on far too long," said Merry Schoon of Appleton, Minn., whose 33-year-old son, Daniel A. Wilson, is being held at Moose Lake. "These men have families and they deserve a second chance to be productive members of society just like everyone else."
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