A federal class action lawsuit has been filed over the treatment of juvenile offenders housed at state facilities, which alleges staff make excessive use of solitary confinement and pepper spray to control the population.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Juvenile Law Center of Philadelphia filed the lawsuit on behalf of four Milwaukee County youth, although the suit seeks remedies for all past, present, and future offenders at the state’s Lincoln Hills Boys School and Copper Lake Girls School in Lincoln County. It calls for the state to cease the use of solitary confinement, chemical sprays, and mechanical restraints against offenders housed at the facilities.
“These practices are really inhumane and quite harmful to the children they are imposed on,” argues JLC chief counsel Marsha Levick. “In hearing each of the things that are happening to these kids, if we place our own children in those pictures, I think it’s very easy to see why we believe these are constitutional violations.”
The two facilities have been the focus of intense scrutiny for more than a year, following numerous reports about abuse that prompted a federal investigation. No charges have been filed, but the controversy resulted in a change of leadership at the Department of Corrections and the removal of several staff members from the facilities.
The state Department of Justice said it is currently reviewing the lawsuit.