A group of guards at the state’s youth prison broke the arm of an inmate, strip-searched him, left the inmate naked and injured in his cell for hours and did not provide him medical attention for a week, a new lawsuit alleges.
Jacob Bailey, currently an inmate at the Stanley Correctional Institution, filed the lawsuit in federal court last month against guards at the Lincoln Hill School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls and state Corrections officials, alleging his constitutional rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and unreasonable searches were violated. In the lawsuit, Bailey seeks at least $75,000 in damages.
Bailey alleges that in March 2014, while being kept in solitary confinement, guards responded to his cell after he covered a security camera with paper and began pounding on his cell door. Guards suspected he was carrying a screw, though it was never found.
At that time, guards James Johnson and John Wienandt forced Bailey — who was age 16 at the time — onto his hands and knees and told Bailey “they were going to knock out his teeth,” the lawsuit says.
The two guards then got on top of Bailey while he was on his knees and “twisted both his arms behind his back,” causing Bailey to cry, the lawsuit alleges.
“Defendants called Bailey a little (expletive) and told him to stop crying,” the lawsuit says. “The Defendants after several minutes of this inhumane, wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain and mental anguish then forced Bailey to remove all his clothes.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Bailey was sexually assaulted during the strip search because the nature of the search was “inhumane and a wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain and mental anguish to Bailey.”
After being searched, Bailey was told to sit in the corner of his cell with only socks for about three hours, when he received his pants. A shirt was returned to Bailey an hour later, according to the lawsuit. Bailey was not given a blanket until the next afternoon.
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Though Bailey asked for medical attention for his broken arm, he was not taken to see a doctor until a week later. He was diagnosed at the Bone and Joint Center in nearby Merrill with a wrist-arm fracture and received a cast for his arm.
The lawsuit says the guards at the youth prison failed to provide humane care for Bailey and instead “acted intentionally in reckless disregard and were deliberately indifferent to Bailey’s constitutional rights.”
“The care provided was unreasonably inadequate, was child abuse and in violation of their standard operating procedure which was the substantial cause of Bailey’s injuries both emotional and physical,” the lawsuit said.
Tristan Cook, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said the DOC has “conducted a robust internal investigation and held employees accountable for their conduct” and that “DOC is cooperating with ongoing investigations.”
Two former youth prison guards last month received letters indicating they were targets of a federal investigation that could result in charges. Cook said neither Johnson nor Wienandt are employed by DOC any longer — both resigned, in December 2015 and May 2016, respectively. Two of the four other guards involved still work at the youth prison, but just one still works as a guard there.
Cook also noted that DOC made a number of changes to operations at the youth prison because of the 2014 incident, including requiring DOC staff to notify parents of any injury inflicted upon an inmate, requiring guards to wear body cameras, requiring guards to complete use-of-force training, requiring medical staff to conduct wellness checks of inmates after any incident “that could result in injury,” and establishing a “closer partnership” with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, among other changes.
Bailey’s lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal challenges — including a class-action suit — brought by current and former inmates of the youth prison, alleging guards there treated inmates with such force and neglect that their constitutional rights had been violated. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported on the lawsuit.
Gov. Scott Walker this month unveiled a plan to close the facility as a youth prison, turn it into an adult prison, and open six new facilities around the state for serious juvenile offenders after allegations of abuse of inmates and unsafe working conditions for staff plagued the facility for years.