Pictures of Youths in Prison
ACLU’s suit documents questionable treatment at Lincoln Hills, Copper Lake.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin last week filed a few pictures showing how youths in solitary confinement are treated when they are actually let out of their cells.
The pictures were filed in support of a request by the ACLU and the for a temporary injunction to halt the use of pepper spray, mechanical restraints, and solitary confinement except under very limited, urgent situations.
The defendants in the suit, meanwhile, admitted holding youth for more than 50 consecutive days in solitary confinement and pepper spraying youths who were in their cells or in mechanical restraints, among many other things. The document of admissions can be found here.
The ACLU, along with the Juvenile Law Center and with pro-bono assistance from Quarles & Brady LLP, is suing on behalf of past and current inmates of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons, alleging the extreme disciplinary practices at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake violate the inmates’ constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and cruel and unusual punishment and their right to due process. The suit alleges the institutions make routine use of strip searches, chemical sprays, solitary confinement and mechanical restraints.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson.
Lawyers for defendants in the case argued in a separate document that a court-ordered limit on the the use of pepper spray, solitary confinement, and mechanical restraints could actually hurt efforts by state and school officials to cut back on those things.
The defendants, including Department of Corrections Secretary Jon E. Litscher, also object to the terms “pepper spray,” “on the belt,” and “solitary confinement.” Those terms are all “obsolete” and “inaccurate,” the defendants say.
Here are some of the things the defendants admitted (while maintaining their objections to the terms above), according to a court filing:
- Staff used pepper spray on youths in the two schools more than 200 times last year.
- The general substance of the following statement is accurate: “The majority of youth held at LHS and CLS have a history of childhood trauma, mental illness, cognitive impairments, and / or developmental disabilities.
- Staff have placed in solitary confinement youths whose records include a diagnosis of mental illness, disorder or defect.
- Staff have used pepper spray on youths who are locked in their cells or who are in mechanical restraints.
- Some of the cells in the Lincoln Hills restricted housing units do not have toilets.
- Some of the segregation cells at Copper Lake do not have toilets.
- The light in each segregation cell stays lit 24 hours a day, though it is dimmed at night.
- Youths in segregation cells generally eat their meals in their cells.
- The Department of Corrections has transferred youths from restrictive housing to the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center, a mental health facility.
- Youth have been kept in solitary confinement for longer than 50 consecutive days.
- Youth have been kept in solitary confinement for longer than 180 cumulative days.
- Youth have been kept “on the belt” in solitary confinement for more than 28 straight days.
- Staff recognizes that bystander youths may be affected by “incapacitating agents” and “makes efforts to alleviate the effects on case-by-case-bases.”
- Staff conducts strip searches of youth at the two facilities without individualized suspicion of wrongdoing by a particular youth.
- As of March, 2017, 96.5% of staff at the two schools was white; the majority of youth at the schools are African-American.
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.”
- Evers Proposes $45.8 Million for Milwaukee Juvenile Facility - Gretchen Schuldt - Mar 1st, 2021
- MKE County: County Has Just 22 Inmates in Youth Prisons - Edgar Mendez - Feb 24th, 2021
- Evers Pushes Juvenile Justice System Changes - Corri Hess - Feb 18th, 2021
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Calls for Transformation of the Wisconsin Youth Justice System as the State Acknowledges it Will Not Meet the July 2021 Deadline to Close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Prisons - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Feb 8th, 2021
- Pandemic Causes Youth Prison Problems - Graham Kilmer - Jan 27th, 2021
- Can State Rescue Youth Corrections Plan? - Graham Kilmer - Jan 11th, 2021
- State Can’t Meet Deadline to Close Youth Prisons - Graham Kilmer - Dec 30th, 2020
- MKE County: Crowley Defers Youth Corrections Grant Until State Has Sustainable Plan - Graham Kilmer - Sep 16th, 2020
- State Blows Up County Youth Corrections Plan - Graham Kilmer - May 20th, 2020
- Youth Advocates Remain Committed to Closing Wisconsin Youth Prisons Following Monitor’s Report - American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin - Mar 5th, 2020
Read more about Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake here