A John Doe investigation into allegations of misconduct at youth correctional facilities in Lincoln County has been allowed to expire, prompting concerns from at least one Democratic state lawmaker.
The probe was looking into multiple issues at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake facilities, which include alleged physical and sexual abuse of young inmates. Under a state law approved last year, the investigation opened under the state’s John Doe statutes expires after six months, unless an extension is requested. That deadline was allowed to pass earlier this month, although a federal investigation surrounding the facility is still ongoing.
The state Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment on the reason behind the decision not to seek an extension.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) believes it’s a mistake to rely solely on federal investigators, since the state will have to play a role in implementing any reforms to prevent future incidents. “If they’re involved in the investigation in any capacity whatsoever, they’re going to have a much clearer sense of what corrective actions can be made, and not have to wait until the complete end of the investigation,” Barca argued.
Barca said the decision to let the state’s involvement in the investigation end under a Republican-backed change to the John Doe law is another cause for concern, especially since GOP leaders have said they want to wait to make any major changes at the Department of Corrections until the investigation is complete. “I would think they would want to remove any sort of perception that they are protecting their administrative officials, and that they would be much a stronger part of rooting out corruption and figuring out how we’re going to make sure this never happens again.”