Moose Lake and the Dozen Dwarfs


I visited Vince at Moose Lake. It was “not too bad,” as we say in Minnesota to mean, “it was awful.”


The guard who accompanied me through the clanging locked doors was friendly; too much so. After all, I had seen Orange is the New Black by now and I wondered if he would go home and think about me. That’s a nice way of putting it.

The waiting room was “decorated” in grey and teal, with paintings depicting bucks that would be a hunter’s wet dream, Bald Eagles, and a log cabin in the woods with an American flag flying in its front yard.

Could it be even grimmer than St. Cloud? Yes, because it was built as the State Hospital for the Insane in 1936, during the Great Depression, so austerity was the guiding principle in its design.


I was directed by a CO sitting on a dais to greet Vince on the “hug rug”, which was pretty much what it sounds like—a two-by-four foot rug where inmates and visitors were allowed their brief hug in front of a CO.

Vince knew it had been an old mental hospital. I explained how Ronald Reagan had emptied out all the mental hospitals in the 80s, under the cover of “helping people live in the community rather than institutions.” Community turned out to mean mentally ill people huddled under bridges and in homeless shelters, because the community programs were so underfunded. I told him how Ronald Reagan had slashed benefits for the widows and orphans of veterans, including me, and how I still held a grudge toward the old bastard who conservatives seemed to hold up as a saint.

“Reagan must have forgotten a few mentally ill guys here, mom. There’s this guy who must have an IQ under 70 who sucks his thumb and tries to hide it by covering it with his sleeve.”

And a guy in the cell next to his had breast implants. His cellie, his lover, had been transferred and Vince could hear him whimpering at night.

He talked about how Moose Lake was the repository for sex offenders, who he referred to as men who are “that way.” He glanced around each time he said this; apparently bad mouthing sex offenders was an offense in itself. Vince claimed there were no statistics posted online for Moose Lake because 75% of the offenders there were chomos. I will cover that in my next post.

Vince leaned forward and looked around the room to see if anyone was listening. “Mom, when you get home, do some research and find out why there are so many dwarfs in here.

What?” I asked.

“Yeah. There’re at least a dozen. And one midget.”

He moved on to the next topic, how the inmates here had so little privacy that they defecated in the showers, and how he and his two buddies were playing a game of who would find a hair in their food at each meal, because there was always hair in the food.

He asked me to research something about “two-thirds, first offense” legislation, but since neither of us was allowed to have a pen or paper, I can’t recall what it was now. Some great advocate I am!

“The AA group is just a bunch of old timers telling war stories, so my buddies and I started our own group. We’re all above-average intelligence.” I walked him through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and he seemed to pay close attention.

We talked about his health. “They took me off Mirapex to save money, and put me on a new drug, so I was kicking all night with my Restless Legs—you know how it is.” Indeed I do. “They finally told me they’d had me on a child’s dose.”

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