Court Watch

Chemical Spraying Used At Lincoln Hills

ACLU suit shows pepper spray used repeatedly, violating state administrative code.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Jan 27th, 2017 10:24 am
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Lincoln Hills School and Copper Lake School. Photo from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Lincoln Hills School and Copper Lake School. Photo from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

As previously reported, the ACLU’s lawsuit filed against State Department of Corrections officials alleges shocking treatment of juveniles at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons. The state has yet to respond to the suit and its charges.

Our first story dealt with the prisons’ use, overuse, and abuse of solitary confinement. This story looks at allegations involving pepper spray.

Lincoln Hills (LH) and Copper Lake (CL) hold 150-200 youth as young as 14 years old, according to the suit. And the Department of  Corrections’ policy allows the use of chemical chemical agents “to ‘enforce a DOC rule, a posted policy or procedure or an order of staff member,’ even when there is no risk of “harm to staff or youth or danger to the security of the institution,” according to the ACLU suit.

The state’s administrative code, meanwhile, prohibits using chemical agents as discipline.

“A juvenile may not be disciplined by corporal or unusual punishment, intentional humiliation, mental abuse, interference with the daily functions of living, the use of chemical agents, the use of restraints such as handcuffs or shackles, or by placement in a cell designed for the administrative or disciplinary segregation of adults.” (Wis. Adm. Code § 347.47 (2010).

Excerpts

“…guards at LHS and CLS have used pepper spray on the youth in their care at least 198 times in the period January through October 2016.

…guards at LHS and CLS have used pepper spray on the youth in their care at least 198 times in the period January through October 2016.

Guards at LHS and CLS use several different forms of pepper spray on youth in their custody, including “Bear Mace,” which is marketed as being able to protect hikers from charging bears. Other types of pepper spray in use at LHS and CLS include Phantom and Ghost. Some pepper sprays are used to create a cloud which will fill the youth’s cell. Others are sprayed directly at the face or body of a youth.

Guards at LHS and CLS use several different forms of pepper spray on youth in their custody, including “Bear Mace,” which is marketed as being able to protect hikers from charging bears.

After youth are pepper sprayed, they are routinely locked into a cage in a shower. The effects of the spray are temporarily worsened by exposure to water and spread to sensitive areas such as the groin, causing intense pain. To avoid this acute increase in pain, some youth choose not to turn on the shower, but as a result the spray remains on their skin, prolonging the duration of their pain.

After youth are pepper sprayed, they are routinely locked into a cage in a shower. The effects of the spray are temporarily worsened by exposure to water and spread to sensitive areas such as the groin, causing intense pain.

Youth at CLS and LHS have described being pepper sprayed as “feeling like you were hit a hundred times.” The effects of the spray can last for days, and are reactivated by water even days later, such as when the child washes his or her face.

Youth at CLS and LHS have described being pepper sprayed as “feeling like you were hit a hundred times.”

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.”

More about the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake

Categories: Court Watch, Crime

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