Attorney General Brad Schimel said an already yearlong investigation into allegations of abuse at the state’s youth prison might take another year.
That’s because investigators are trying to corroborate allegations made by inmates against staff members at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls juvenile detention facility, Schimel said in an interview Monday.
In October, authorities opened a John Doe investigation targeting a wide range of potential crimes — from child abuse to second-degree sexual assault to misconduct in public office.
The probe also seeks to determine whether crimes of child neglect, abuse of inmates, strangulation and suffocation, intimidation of victims, using pepper spray to cause bodily harm, intimidation of witnesses, tampering with public records and violating state or county laws governing institutions have occurred.
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The investigation was opened after a nearly yearlong investigation by the state’s DOJ and now includes the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
Schimel said in the interview that DOJ’s “primary concern (is) where we’ve developed information that a member of the staff may have been involved in an inappropriate incident, that danger gets removed.”
Sixteen facility staff members have been put on leave, according to DOC.
“These are complex investigations. Some of the individuals we are interviewing are poor historians,” Schimel said. “For people who work at the institution, they have reasons why they might not want to be forthcoming with information. And for individuals who are residents at the institution they have reasons why they might not want to be forthcoming. We’re just working on peeling back one layer of an onion at a time.”
Schimel said corroboration is key because of some accusers’ criminal histories.
“They obviously have a delinquency history — that’s why they landed there,” Schimel said. “Some have mental health issues, some have addiction issues, that have left them with potential challenges to their credibility, so it’s important for us to corroborate.”