5 workers in juvenile prison sent to hospital; DOC spokesman denies inmates testing staff

5 workers in juvenile prison sent to hospital; DOC spokesman denies inmates testing staff

A retired union leader says violence by inmates at Wisconsin’s juvenile prison sent five workers to the hospital Sunday night.

Lincoln Hills retired union steward Doug Curtis said Tuesday that he didn’t know the extent of the injuries but that one employee may need knee surgery. Curtis said staff fear the inmates were practicing for a larger disruption.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson on Tuesday gave Gov. Scott Walker’s administration and those who filed a lawsuit challenging disciplinary tactics at the prison to report back by Nov. 10.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook says inmates at the state’s juvenile prisons were not “testing” staff to see how they would respond during a disturbance Sunday that injured staff. He said inmates confined to their rooms were damaging state property. He says staff responded and “subdued the disruptive youth.”

Judge orders report on juvenile prison

Peterson in July ordered the prison to reduce its use of pepper spray, solitary confinement and shackles on the inmates. Walker’s administration told the judge earlier this month that it was making progress toward fulfilling the order, but “significant unrest” made it difficult to implement fully.

Last week a pair of state lawmakers asked Peterson to reverse his order, citing complaints from staff that it had led to an increase in violence. Five staff members were sent to the hospital on Sunday after violent altercations with inmates.

Details about the injuries the five workers suffered Sunday wasn’t immediately available, Cook said. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the injuries.

The Lincoln Hills juvenile prison is under a federal investigation into abuse of inmates by guards. A federal judge in July ordered the prison to sharply reduce use of pepper spray, solitary confinement and shackles, an order that workers have said has led to increased inmate violence.

Governor orders hiring of interim prison leader

Walker is ordering that an interim superintendent be hired at Wisconsin’s juvenile prisons in light of recent attacks against guards and workers at the facilities.

Walker sent a letter Tuesday to DOC Secretary Jon Litscher ordering him to hire the interim leader. The post has been vacant since September.

Litscher just last week said the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prisons were safe for both guards and inmates.

Walker says in the letter that “We cannot allow individuals convicted of battery, armed robbery, and even murder to feel empowered to attack staff and each other in these institutions.”

He says no matter the challenges, staff working there must have “the tools they need to maintain order in the facilities and protect themselves and to protect the offenders held at these institutions.”