Gov. Scott Walker called on the Department of Corrections Tuesday to appoint an interim superintendent of the state’s juvenile prisons, following attacks on staff.
In the letter, Walker suggested “violent individuals in these institutions have become emboldened following repeated media reports and court-ordered operational changes.”
Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake have been under investigation for two years over abuse allegations, and a federal judge earlier this year ordered changes to procedures on things like the use of solitary confinement, restraints and pepper spray.
Walker wrote in his letter to Secretary Jon Litscher those housed at the juvenile facilities were convicted as adults of crimes that include homicide, sexual assault, robbery and possession of a dangerous weapon.
He noted those who work at the facilities have “challenging jobs” and wrote the person for the interim appointment should have “an outstanding set of administrative skills gained by working in the Department.” The interim superintendent will ensure court-appointed changes are made while protecting the safety of staff and juveniles, Walker added.
“We cannot allow individuals convicted of battery, armed robbery, and even murder to feel
empowered to attack staff and each other in these institutions,” Walker wrote. “No matter the challenges, we must provide the men and women working in CLS/LHS with the tools they need to maintain order in the facilities and protect themselves and to protect the offenders held at these institutions.”
Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said the facilities should be closed, instead.
“Instead of looking for an interim superintendent, Governor Walker should be shutting down Lincoln Hills,” said Taylor, who is co-sponsoring legislation to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake in a year. “This is an issue that Walker should have addressed years ago when the Council of State Governments offered technical assistance so we can implement best practices.”