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JUVENILE CORRECTIONS | MOVE TO REPLACE LINCOLN HILLS

Gov. Tony Evers signals support for bill to move juveniles out of Lincoln Hills

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Gov. Tony Evers has signaled support for a bill that passed the Assembly late Thursday to fund a new juvenile prison to replace the state’s embattled Lincoln Hills facility.

After initially indicating that the bill, which unanimously passed the Senate earlier this week, was unlikely to come before the Assembly before it adjourned for the session, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, announced Thursday that a vote would be held after former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is running for governor, urged him to take it up.

The amended version of the bill, which now includes language to allow for local site approval and to convert the Irma facility to an adult prison, passed the Assembly unanimously and heads back to the Senate for final approval.

“For years, Republicans playing politics have stood in the way of our work to close Lincoln Hills and get our kids closer to home safely and responsibly,” Evers, a Democrat, tweeted Friday. “This bipartisan bill is a step in the right direction — let’s find common ground and do what’s right. Let’s get this done.”

The bill would authorize nearly $42 million in borrowing to build a juvenile correctional facility to replace the Lincoln Hills facility, which in the last decade has faced reports of child neglect, violent outbursts from inmates, use of pepper spray to cause bodily harm and intimidation of witnesses.

Bill author Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said the bill represents years of work and the amendments allowing for local input on the next facility, as well as using Lincoln Hills as an adult prison, make the final measure stronger. He said the Senate is likely to take up the bill in early March, before the chamber adjourns for the year.

“I see no reason why it wouldn’t come back to us and we wouldn’t concur with the amendments,” he said.

Vos said earlier this week the bill was unlikely to get a vote because it does not specify where the new Milwaukee County facility would be located, but changed his mind Thursday after Kleefisch, who served under former Gov. Scott Walker, sent Vos a letter asking him to hold a vote on the bill.

The bipartisan bill comes nearly four years after Walker signed a measure authorizing the state to shut Lincoln Hills by January 2021 and replace it with smaller, more regional facilities. Evers in 2019 signed into law a bill extending the closure date to July 2021, a deadline he later said was unrealistic.

“We must finish the job that we started,” Kleefisch wrote in the letter.

“Passing this bill to create an additional facility for juvenile offenders, along with the assurance that we keep the existing facility operational to house more adult offenders, is a step in the direction toward safer communities,” she wrote. “We need to lock up violent criminals. This is a good first step in doing that.”

Evers, who is seeking a second term this fall, has pledged to close Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls in northern Wisconsin. He included in his two budget proposals plans to create replacement sites for Lincoln Hills, but each was rejected by legislative Republicans.

Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake became the state’s primary prisons for juvenile offenders after Walker and the Republican Legislature in 2011 closed two other facilities in southeastern Wisconsin as a cost-saving measure. Several incidents of abuse have resulted in the state paying out millions of dollars in settlements.

Alleged abuses uncovered at Wisconsin youth prison

Follow the Wisconsin State Journal's coverage of the investigations into abuses of juvenile inmates at Wisconsin's youth prison in Irma.

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Rep. Evan Goyke made a presentation to a bipartisan group about converting youth prison to an adult treatment facility.

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The Ethan Allen School for Boys correctional facility in Delafield was just about 30 miles from Milwaukee, home to roughly half of the state's most egregious juvenile offenders.

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When the most serious juvenile offenders are incarcerated in Missouri, they’re not sent to one central, sprawling campus hours away from their…

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A former Wisconsin prisons secretary said Friday that he’s writing a tell-all book about how the investigation into abuse at the state’s youth…

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Three Wisconsin juvenile prison workers were hurt in attacks by inmates over the weekend, the latest in a string of incidents that come as the…

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Staff injuries and assaults rose more than 500 percent in two years.

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The scaled-back version of the bill that passed the Senate Tuesday would cost about $57 million a year, according to a Corrections Department estimate.

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Gov. Scott Walker will outline themes in a speech Sunday at Weldall Manufacturing in Waukesha formally launching his bid for a third term.

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DOC reports court-ordered shorter stays in isolation for inmates have resulted in fewer combative incidents that typically resulted in use of pepper spray.

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The search is part of training for correctional officers, a DOC spokesman says.

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Walker is expected to announce a run for a third term

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DOC Secretary Jon Litscher this week tapped a top DOC official to take over the state's troubled youth prison until a permanent administrator is hired.

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Working in a youth prison isn't anything like working in a bank or on a construction site or at newspaper.

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Five staff members were sent to the hospital after being assaulted by inmates in separate incidents.

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Staff and inmates have both described a chaotic and unsafe environment at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls. 

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Staff at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls describe a facility that has descended into chaos since a federal order changed how guards manage behavior there.

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The episode is the latest revelation in a series of violent actions taken against staff at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls. 

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Plaintiffs in the suit told the court the Department of Corrections has made 'limited progress" following the order but has yet to fully comply.

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A Department of Corrections spokesman disputed the charge.

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All inmates at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls can be part of a federal lawsuit against the Department of Corrections.

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One inmate was pepper sprayed 12 times in six months, according to a new report.

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Wendy Peterson had been superintendent of the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls since April 2016.

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Five federal lawsuits have now been filed this year accusing Department of Corrections youth prison officials of abuse. 

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The four Democrats sitting on the Legislature's budget-writing committee sent a letter on Monday to Department of Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher asking him to request money that has already been recommended by the committee to be included in the 2017-19 state budget that lawmakers have yet to pass. 

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Corrections officials are developing a plan to comply with Judge James Peterson's order to cut back use of solitary confinement, pepper spray and restraints. 

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Judge James Peterson on Monday laid out a number of changes to longtime practices at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls.

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The plan meets the judge's requirements about solitary confinement, use of pepper spray, and use of restraints. 

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Videos of two teen inmates being sprayed repeatedly by guards at the state's youth prison in Irma were released to the public on Thursday.

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A federal judge ruled Friday that DOC's practices of keeping inmates in solitary confinement likely violate inmates' constitutional rights. 

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The testimony came during a Thursday hearing in a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections over its use of solitary confinement for teen inmates. 

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Fewer inmates at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls are behaving aggressively or hurting themselves, new state data show.

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The handful of investigators will be moved to a new unit focused on handling sexual assault investigations. 

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The lawsuit alleges staff used racial epithets, excessive pepper spray and put the former inmate in solitary confinement for more than 10 days during his two-year stay at the facility. 

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Tougher penalties would be imposed on Wisconsin’s youngest offenders who commit serious crimes under a pair of bills up for a public hearing Tuesday.

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Lawmakers in the Assembly also approved new requirements for people receiving government assistance over the objection of Democrats who said the bills would make more people homeless and unfairly affect recipients' children. 

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A top psychologist at Wisconsin’s troubled youth prison was fired for allegedly ignoring the requests of dozens of inmates who asked for help,…

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Some question the use of solitary confinement on youths.

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Gov. Scott Walker is seeking more staff for the state’s troubled youth prison in his 2017-19 state budget proposal.

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A former Wisconsin youth prison inmate who was brain damaged in a suicide attempt alleges in a lawsuit filed Monday that staff ignored warning…

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A former guard disputes inmates' claims of abuse. 

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The use of solitary confinement at the state's youth prison is at the center of a lawsuit

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Four file a federal lawsuit alleging as much as 20 percent of the population is held in solitary confinement and guards needlessly pepper-spray prisoners.

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The teen was accused of sexually assaulting a fifth grader.

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Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel says it's possible that his office may charge one or more people in connection with alleged abuses aga…

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Lincoln County Sheriff's Department deputies have responded to 178 incidents at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls juvenile correctional facility so far this year -- up from the 8 and 7 incidents deputies were called to in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

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No charges have been filed one year after investigators descended on a prison for the state’s most serious teenage offenders to question emplo…

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The first class of guards completed training in October.

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The state agreed to pay the former inmate in September but released the settlement agreement to reporters on Friday. 

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Until recently, staff that were not medically trained dispensed medication to inmates. 

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The criminal investigation is ongoing.

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Former cabinet secretary Ed Wall was fired after suggesting Gov. Scott Walker's chief of staff could shred documents.

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Ed Wall was terminated Friday from his job at the Justice Department after disputing a demotion from his old job.

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The new superintendent of the state’s troubled youth prison has resigned after fewer than four months on the job.

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"The department as it stands now has many issues that we have to face," said new Department of Corrections secretary Jon Litscher on Wednesday. 

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Former DOC secretary Ed Wall could be called to testify before a federal grand jury.

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Wall's resignation comes as news of the FBI assumes control of the Lincoln Hills abuse investigation.

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Racine County pulled all of its juvenile offenders from the youth prison over prison workers' response to a sexual assault.

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Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Gov. Scott Walker have agreed to the amount, saying it will leave a sizable surplus.

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A total of five employees have resigned amid the investigation. 

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Documents obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal under the state's Public Records Law outline the pay details.

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Brad Schimel said investigators are trying to corroborate accusations.

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Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has proposed hiring a dozen full-time employees to work solely with inmates from his county housed at the state's troubled youth prison.

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Lincoln Hills isn't working, the lawmakers say, and a model of smaller juvenile prisons closer to inmates' homes should be studied.

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Officials forwarded concerns to law enforcement late last year; Walker took direct action after an inmate was recently injured.

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Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies have responded to more than 150 calls to the state's youth prison in the last two years. 

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Investigation of alleged inmate abuse has been under way for a year, but didn't intensify until more recent injuries occurred.

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The Justice Department is leading an investigation into alleged staff abuse of inmates at the facility.

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Using body cameras is one of several the state announced after reports of an investigation into alleged abuse surfaced.

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Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, said she was told there was no increase in reports of abuse of staff by inmates.

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The sweeping criminal investigation of the state’s youth prison involves potential crimes from child abuse to second-degree sexual assault to misconduct in public office, court records show.

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About six union staff members are still on leave, according to an AFSCME representative.

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Investigations revealed a "culture" of staff harming youth. 

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