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Walker: 'We're doing everything in our power' to improve safety at Lincoln Hills prison

Follows the injuries of five staff members

RHINELANDER, Wis. - Gov. Scott Walker said he's taking recommendations from the Secretary of the Department of Corrections on changes to make the state's youth prison safer. 

This follows reports of injuries of five staff members at Lincoln Hills youth prison near Irma in the last two weeks.      

Walker sent a letter to Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher, telling him to appoint an interim superintendent at the prison.  That position has been vacant since September. 

"For us we just think its really imperative to have someone, even while they're looking on a nationwide basis for a new superintendent I think its important to just in terms of staffing just to have someone in as an interim, not just acting, but another leadership position," Walker said.  

The governor was asked Wednesday after an event in Rhinelander whether he could ensure the safety of staff and young people at the prison. 

"I can say that per the recommendations of Secretary Litscher we are doing everything in our power to make sure that that's possible," Walker said.  "When you're dealing with people who like I said have committed some of the most egregious crimes in the state, they just happen to be at this facility because of the age they were when they were sentenced, any prison is always a difficult situation."

The state budget included funding for raises for prison staff, and Walker also pointed to changes that DOC had made in requiring more cameras in corrections facilities. 

Walker said Wednesday that Litscher had recently visited the prison, but he has not. 

"Just this week, we asked the secretary yet again if there is more they would recommend doing and we're more than willing to take additional action if the professionals there believe that's what's needed," Walker said. 

This is all happening as the facility remains under a federal investigation into abuse of inmates by staff members, and a federal judge recently ordered decreased use of pepper spray and solitary confinement. 

The governor said Wednesday he remains open to other changes the secretary may suggest to address safety. 

Democrats are asking for more drastic action.  Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, is sponsoring a bill that would close the Lincoln Hills-Copper Lake prison within a year. 


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