Lincoln Hills teacher hospitalized after punch to face by teen inmate
MADISON - A teacher at Wisconsin’s juvenile prison was sent to the hospital after an inmate punched her in the face.
The Wednesday assault of the long-time teacher — a woman who is under 5 feet tall — came the same day attorneys for the state told a federal judge they had had trouble fully complying with his order to overhaul Lincoln Hills School for Boys because of “significant unrest” at the facility.
“Our thoughts are with the employee as they recuperate,” Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook said in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful to staff and their families as they work to make a positive difference in the lives of youth in DOC custody.”
Cook did not provide other details other than to say the employee was injured by an inmate and sent to a hospital. Others familiar with the incident said the inmate hit the teacher in the face and she remained in the hospital Thursday evening.
Photos circulating on social media showed the teacher in a hospital bed with a swollen eye that was black and purple with bruising. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is not publishing the photos because it does not have permission to use them.
A friend and former coworker said the woman could have been killed in the incident.
“She’s a tough woman,” said the friend, who asked not to be named. “Emotionally, she’s torn up.”
The inmate was involved in another recent attack in which a staff member had a tooth knocked out, according to sources familiar with the latest incident. They said the inmate was 16 or 17 years old.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
Lincoln Hills and its sister facility, Copper Lake School for Girls, have been under a criminal investigation for prisoner abuse and child neglect for nearly three years. The facilities share a campus 30 miles north of Wausau.
Inmates sued over conditions at the prison in January and U.S. District Judge James Peterson this summer ordered the state to curb the use of handcuffs, solitary confinement and pepper spray at the facility.
Attorneys for the state on Wednesday submitted a report to the court saying they had made gains in complying with his orders but had not been able to do everything they hoped because of unrest at Lincoln Hills.
Lincoln Hills staff contend the judge’s orders have made conditions worse at the prison because it has emboldened inmates to be aggressive and given prison officials fewer ways to punish inmates. Advocates for the inmates say they are acting out only because of the way they have been treated and the state should shut down the prison complex and hold inmates in their own communities.
Cook said Lincoln Hills is not less safe than it was before the judge issued his injunction and staff have effective strategies to deal with aggressive behavior.