State, ACLU in talks over Lincoln Hills
Embattled teen prison faces multiple lawsuits for alleged violations
MADISON - With Gov. Scott Walker planning to close Wisconsin’s teen prison, his administration is in settlement talks with the attorneys for juvenile inmates who have sued over conditions there.
“In light of this development, the parties submit this report to inform the court that, at this juncture, the parties are continuing to actively negotiate a potential settlement and still intend to proceed with this case,” lawyers for the state and inmates wrote in a court filing Friday.
Teen inmates represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and Juvenile Law Center sued state officials a year ago over conditions at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, which share a campus 30 miles north of Wausau.
U.S. District Judge James Peterson last summer found inmates’ rights were likely being violated and ordered the state to greatly curb its use of solitary confinement and pepper spray.
Separately, the prison has been under a criminal investigation for three years. Last month, federal prosecutors notified two former guards they could be charged over allegations they broke a 16-year-old inmate’s arm and left him naked in a cell without providing adequate medical attention.
The GOP governor last week said he plans to close the facility and convert it to an adult prison if he is re-elected this fall. Under his $80 million plan, the state would build five teen lockups around the state and a mental health facility for incarcerated girls on the grounds of Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison.
That prompted Friday’s short filing regarding settlement talks.
If a settlement isn’t reached, a trial is scheduled for November, three weeks after Walker stands for re-election.
Other lawsuits have been filed over the prison that Walker will have to deal with as he campaigns.
In August, a lawsuit brought by a Copper Lake inmate is slated to go to trial. The inmate was severely brain damaged after she attempted suicide there and she is suing the state to help cover the millions of dollars in care she will require for the rest of her life.
Another trial is slated for October — just a month before the election — involving an inmate who alleges guards pepper sprayed him, body slammed him and put him alone in a cell that reeked of urine and feces for at least four days.