Republican leaders in the state legislature say it’s too early to know what action is needed, in the wake of abuse allegations at a state juvenile detention facility.
Investigators continue to look into claims that inmates at the Lincoln Hills School in Irma were abused, possibly by members of staff at the facility. While he agrees some form of legislative action may eventually be warranted, Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) wants to wait until all of the facts are available. “We really don’t have a handle yet on exactly what did happen there, what has been happening there, and then what should the approach be.”
The Juneau Republican says the scope of the allegations are much larger than what they initially though, and some of his members have already been looking at what steps may be necessary. However, he believes it’s likely to remain an open investigation for some time, so it’s hard to give a definitive answer at this point on what may need to be done beyond administrative changes in the Department of Corrections.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) shares a similar view, and says “I don’t want to instantly say it was the fault of the staff, the fault of the administration, or the fault of the kids yet, because I just don’t know the truth yet.”
The Rochester Republican also notes that offenders at the facility are typically those with serious offenses who are facing more than a year in state custody. “These are not somebody who’s committed a minor offense. They are serious perpetrators of major crimes.”
Some Democrats have already been calling for reforms in how the state handles juvenile offenders. Those steps could include housing them closer to their home area, instead of the facility located north of Wasuau in Irma. However, it remains unlikely lawmakers could act on the issue before the current legislative session ends this spring.
Democrats also asked for a hearing into the current situation at Lincoln Hills, which a Republican lawmaker rejected because of concerns that it could disrupt the ongoing investigation.