State News

Legislators ask for action following assault of five inmates

Legislators wrote to U.S. District Court Judge Peterson requesting him to reconsider his ruling that limits use of pepper spray at Lincoln Hills School for Boys following a violent attack on staff members by inmates. 

Image By: Kaitlyn Veto

State legislators asked a federal judge Tuesday to lift his ruling that limits the use of pepper spray at Lincoln Hills School for Boys following a violent inmate outburst earlier this week.

The outburst at Lincoln Hills, a state teen prison complex 30 miles north of Wausau, is one of many that have occurred in the last year following the federal ruling.

Inmates assaulted Lincoln Hills staff Sunday in two consecutive incidents, resulting in five staff members getting sent to the hospital.

Over the summer, inmates smashed windows and one inmate gave a guard a concussion by hitting him with a radio. Another procured a can of pepper spray and used it on a staff member. All of these are separate incidents.

One guard became so fearful that he resigned, stating in an interview to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was “afraid of getting killed by an inmate.”

The ruling set by U.S. District Court Judge Peterson restricts the use of solitary confinement, pepper spray and handcuffs on inmates. The order came as a result of three lawsuits and a federal investigation into the prison’s treatment of inmates.

Peterson said he hoped that it would establish more protections for the rights of teen inmates and scale back the state Department of Corrections’ use of force in its prisons.

Lawmakers now want that ruling modified due to the violent outbursts and the difficulty for staff to control violent inmates without being able to use pepper spray or solitary confinement.

“Under Judge Peterson's order, he's emboldening a few of the youth, not most of them, but a few of the youth, and they are creating real problems as a result of that. If he reverses the order, youth will know that there must be discipline in the institution and I believe the staff will implement that discipline," said state Sen. Tom Tiffany.

Lincoln Hills is supposed to give an update of the plan’s effect on Nov. 10th, however, Sunday’s outburst has called for immediate action.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher, Gov. Scott Walker insists that Litscher hire an interim superintendent, increase its medical staff, and invest more into bettering its security infrastructure.

“No matter the challenges, we must provide the men and women working in [these prisons] with the tools they need to maintain order in the facilities and protect themselves and to protect the offenders held at these institutions,” Walker said in the statement.

The head of Lincoln Hill School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls stepped down from the position following the Judge’s ruling, leaving the position empty. 

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