Wisconsin sued as teens claim unlawful conditions in youth facilities

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By Timothy Mclaughlin

<span class="articleLocation”>Wisconsin was sued on Monday over conditions at
two juvenile detention facilities in the state’s northeast,
where teenagers claimed they are routinely subject to unlawful
solitary confinement, shackling and pepper spray.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Juvenile Law Center
filed the lawsuit against Wisconsin Department of Corrections
officials on behalf of four unnamed youths at the Lincoln Hills
School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls in Irma,
Wisconsin.

The civil rights class action lawsuit filed in the U.S.
District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin named two
department of corrections officials as defendants, as well as
the supervisor of the facilities and the security director.

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections will review the
suit, spokesman Tristan Cook said by email Monday evening.

Some 15 to 20 percent of detainees at the facilities are
kept in solitary confinement for 22 or 23 hours a day, the
complaint said.

“Many of these children are forced to spend their only free
hour of time per day outside of a solitary confinement cell in
handcuffs and chained to a table,” the complaint said.

“Officers also repeatedly and excessively use Bear Mace and
other pepper sprays against the youth, causing them excruciating
pain and impairing their breathing.”

The complaint added that, “these practices constitute
serious violations of the children’s constitutional rights.”

The four plaintiffs are not named in the lawsuit because
they are minors. They are represented by their parents.

Two are currently in custody at Lincoln Hills and one is in
Copper Lake, the complaint said. The fourth was previously in
custody at Lincoln Hills but is now at another facility.

Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, which share a campus around
215 miles (346 km) north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin have been the
subject of multiple complaints and investigations in recent
years.

An investigation into allegations including child neglect
and sexual assault at the facilities was launched by State
Attorney General Brad Schimel in January 2015, according to
local media. The FBI joined the investigation in December 2015.

A report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published late
last year detailed numerous issues at the facilities stemming
from systemic breakdowns, lax management and staff shortages.

In one incident, a teenager’s toes were partially amputated
after his foot was crushed in a cell door and authorities waited
nearly two hours to transport him to the hospital, the newspaper
reported.



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