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Lincoln Hills And Copper Lake Placed On Lockdown

Facility-Wide Search Comes After Incidents That Sent Five Staff To Hospital

Lincoln Hills
The main entrance at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls near Irma in northern Wisconsin. Photo: Glen Moberg/WPR

Wisconsin’s juvenile prisons have been placed on lockdown while guards from an adult prison help search for contraband.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook said the search will be facility-wide at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools.

Former Lincoln Hills union steward Doug Curtis said the two-day search is long overdue, given that prison guards have reported drill bits, razor blades and other potentially dangerous items missing.

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Staff have been told the search will take place over two days — something Curtis said he believes is unprecedented at the youth prisons.

“There’s been individual lockdowns in cottages when they’ve had to shake down the cottage and look for contraband,” Curtis said. “But I don’t believe there’s ever been an institution-wide lockdown, at least not (to) my knowledge.”

The lockdown comes about a week after a series of incidents that sent five staff members to the hospital.

Several staff members say violence has increased at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake after a federal judge ordered less use of shackles, pepper spray and solitary confinement there.

In response to increased unrest, the DOC has been working to increase security at the facilities for both staff and inmates, according to the DOC.

But Curtis said the state will need to take many more steps to improve safety at the youth prisons, including hiring more staff.

“The budget has set aside money for eight youth counselors. We need 35. And that’s just youth counselors, not teachers, social workers, health care staff, psychological help and all the other people that keep that place running,” Curtis said.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 with original reporting by WPR staff.