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 state struggles to implement a federal court order requiring it to drastically reduce the use of solitary confinement, pepper spray and shackles on its juvenile inmates.
The state Corrections Department and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department are investigating the attacks that happened Saturday at the Lincoln Hills prison.
One employee was hurt in an assault Saturday morning and two others were injured in separate assaults the same afternoon, Corrections Department spokesman Tristan Cook said Tuesday.
All three workers sought medical attention and were released, Cook said. Neither he nor the Sheriff’s Department had details about the nature of the assaults.
“Violent and disrespectful behavior by youth is not acceptable, and we are actively working with law enforcement to charge and prosecute the youth responsible,” Cook said.
Additional steps have also been taken to safeguard staff, he said.
The attacks come as the Corrections Department works to comply with a July federal court order stemming from a class-action lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and Juvenile Law Center filed on behalf of inmates. The Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prisons, which share a campus in Irma about 20 miles north of Wausau, also remain under a nearly 3-year-old federal investigation.
The Corrections Department told U.S. District Judge James Peterson in a court filing Friday that attacks at the prisons are the fault of a “small percentage of the youth.” The department is working on a program targeting the most disruptive inmates, which may involve moving them from the juvenile prisons, attorney Sam Hall told the court.
The ACLU and Juvenile Law Center told the judge that the solution to controlling violent behavior was adequate staffing, programming, treatment, security policies and supervision. The groups asked the judge not to alter his order requiring the Corrections Department to greatly reduce the use of pepper spray, shackles and solitary confinement at the prisons.
The judge, who had asked for updates on prison conditions amid reports of violence since his order, has not responded since Friday’s filings.