Minnesota Inmate Calls on DOC to ‘Value Us as Human’

With at least 69,000 different people being booked into Minnesota jails each year and about 17,500 Minnesota residents locked up in facilities, the state incarcerates a higher percentage of its people than almost any other so-called democracy on earth. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a research and advocacy non-profit, Minnesota’s incarceration rate is 342 per 100,000 people, making it more than the next top-three NATO countries United Kingdom, Portugal, and Canada combined.

Around 8,000 people are incarcerated across 10 Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF) prisons run by the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MN-DOC). Minnesota’s largest and most-funded prison is MCF-Faribault, totaling nearly $44 million in fund appropriations in 2023. The multi-unit facility, just blocks from the city of Faribault, can imprison up to 2,000 adults.

Recently, Unicorn Riot received a statement from Kashaun Damon Pierce Sr., an inmate in MCF-Faribault with a 2026 release date. The statement provides a short glimpse into the state prison system and calls out what he calls the dehumanization of prisoners as a fundamental issue.

“From my perspective as an incarcerated person, more money will never solve the fundamental issue that underlies the lack of security in our prisons: increasing the pressure on an oppressed and dehumanized population has never and will never make the oppressor safer.”

Kashaun Damon Pierce, MNDOC OID #223488
Drone shot of the MCF-Faribault campus and facilities taken in early 2023.

Pierce notes that he entered MCF-Faribault motivated to excel in a rehabilitative and productive environment. Instead, he says inmates are mistreated by indignant correctional officers, are not provided promised educational opportunities and are shoveled into “working in the sweat shops” for less than 50 cents an hour.

This is the second in our periodic ‘letters from prisoners’ section. The following text is commentary reflecting lived experience, research and/or perspectives of the author, an inmate in a Minnesota correctional facility. The views and opinions expressed don’t necessarily represent those of Unicorn Riot. See the previous ‘letters from prisoners’ publication here: “Philadelphia Three” Political Prisoner Khalif Miller Languishes Pre-Trial in Federal Prison.

The following statement was sent to Unicorn Riot via a family member of Kashaun Pierce Sr., currently incarcerated in MCF-Faribault with a release date of June 2026:

The Stillwater prison has recently been in the headlines due to what is described as assaults on correctional staff and the resulting lockdown of the inmates. In response, the MN DOC has requested additional funding to address staff shortages. From my perspective as an incarcerated person, more money will never solve the fundamental issue that underlies the lack of security in our prisons: increasing the pressure on an oppressed and dehumanized population has never and will never make the oppressor safer.

Throughout the country, America is in denial of its systemic inequality, especially when it comes to law enforcement and the justice system. Now the MN DOC is requesting more funding from the legislature to hire more correctional staff to reduce the assaulting of the staff. The problem isn’t lack of funding, but the dehumanization of the incarcerated men and women the MN DOC Correctional Staff do not see, let alone treat, as human.

The MN DOC claims that it uses research-supported practices by providing offenders programs and intervention based on evidenced based principles. These statements in my experience are misrepresentations at best. No programs or interventions exist here.

When I first came to Faribault I was very motivated. I entered this facility with high expectations and assumed I would [enter] in a clean and productive environment where I could excel in programs, but was soon disenchanted. I immediately noticed that the only things Faribault really cared about was the inmates working in the sweat shops (a commercial laundry facility contracted with private colleges such as St. Olaf) for less than [50 cents per hour]. and making sure that Faribault DOC kept their private company contracts and federal funding for so-called treatment (systematically reducing the number of treatment hours to less than that offered in DHS out-patient treatment programs in MN). We hear rumors of trades programs such as woodshop/heavy equipment but none of these programs have materialized even when we have been allowed to sign-up for programs whose start dates have long since passed with nothing happening.

Inmates wishing to have heavy equipment certification passed up work release availability specifically to get heavy equipment certification and now are no longer eligible for work release because of the choice made for education that was never actually available. The default ‘work’ is the campus laundry facility which provide all laundry cleaning for all DOC prisons and DHS facilities such as the Security Hospital in Anoka and St. Peter, MSOP facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter, as well as numerous VETS homes. In addition, numerous private contracts with non-state entities are fulfilled with employees’ pay starting at [50 cents per hour] and maxing out at [two dollars per hour]. Most employees’ never get more than [50 cents per hour] as raises occur in [25 cent] increments quarterly, only after you’ve worked the maximum available hours the previous quarter.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections mission is to “Reduce recidivism by promoting offender change through proven strategies during safe and secure incarceration and effective community supervision”. However, the DOC operation is very misleading and its mission to obtain successful progress has fallen short of its principles.

I’ve been in the MN DOC since 2007 at various custody level within several DOC prison campus locations. But there has been this imaginary dark cloud that looms over Faribault prison that is filled with negativity and provocation. The atmosphere that exists at Faribault prison during my stay has been anything but rehabilitative. Neither has it been bright, positive, or productive for me nor the majority of the men who are currently incarcerated at the Faribault campus.

For example: in Faribault, two inmates shared a cell and were not getting along. One of them asked a correctional staff to switch cells because he and his cellmate were incompatible which was a continuation of violence and aggression outside of prison. The correctional staff refused to intervene and told one of the inmates to figure out the issue himself, unfortunately resulting in one of the inmates being severely beaten by the other. Beyond this incident, I have personally seen and heard correctional staff use derogatory statements towards inmates in general and have witnessed staff use racist and sexist language (referring to an inmate as a ‘bitch and monkey’) while another staff demonstrates superiority by telling us he neither respects nor care about us, and yet another spouted anti-Muslim hate speech while playing Trump speeches incessantly on the staff-controlled media. Another correctional staff person mocked and discriminated against a transgender inmate. I reported the incident to central office —- and the offending staff was transferred into a different position where he still has contact with inmates he continue to bully, harass, and demean, and dehumanize. This was within my first 6 months at Faribault. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents but reveal a pervasive atmosphere of intimidation and disrespect. Correctional staff vehemently believe that their job is to continue to humiliate and punish inmates rather than rehabilitate and reintegrate.

I believe it is impossible for the MN DOC to live up to its mission statement without the help of the incarcerated men and women and the broader MN citizens. The first thing that needs to be done is to treat the incarcerated as what we are — brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters who have made mistakes but are worthy of forgiveness and the support necessary to become productive members of the society to which we belong. Provide us with real opportunities — value us as human. We, and the correctional staff who interact with us, will be far safer as a result. More money alone will never correct the toxic and unsafe-for-everyone environment that currently exists.

Cell in MCF-Faribault via MN-DOC.
Cell block in MCF-Faribault via MN-DOC.

Cover image is the MCF-Faribault sign taken in 2020 and edited with an ‘oil paint’ effect by Niko Georgiades for Unicorn Riot.

Follow us on X (aka Twitter), Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Mastodon, Threads, BlueSky and Patreon.

More from Unicorn Riot 🦄