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Democratic Lawmaker Says Walker, GOP Are Dragging Their Feet On Lincoln Hills

LaTonya Johnson Want's Legislative Hearings On Reported Abuses

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

A Milwaukee legislator is calling for a public hearing on alleged child abuse at the Lincoln Hills juvenile detention facility in Irma. But Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislative leaders says that won’t happen until a federal investigation is complete and a new Department of Corrections secretary is confirmed by the state Senate.

Milwaukee Democrat LaTonya Johnson wants a hearing on why the Department of Children and Families hasn’t followed up on the media reports of sexual assaults, attempted suicides and excessive use of force by staff at the youth prison. She said there’s no mention of Lincoln Hills in the recently released mandatory 90-day reports on egregious child abuse incidents from DCF.

“The Department of Children and Families should have been involved because these are cases of child abuse and neglect,” Johnson said. “All of this information is coming out via the news media. Where are the actual reports for these incidents?”

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When Johnson raised the issue in a hearing of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families this week, Republican committee chair Rep. Jessie Rodriguez said any discussion of Lincoln Hills would have to wait until law enforcement officials wrap up their current probe.

Federal investigators have said it could take as long as another year to wrap up their investigation.

Johnson accused Republicans of delaying any legislative action on the problems in order to cover up what she sees as the Walker administration’s failure to address problems at the school.

“It seems like to me they want Lincoln Hills to die down until this election cycle is over, and the people demand answers if for no other reason than these are kids and we should do our job and make sure these kids aren’t continuing to be in harm’s way,” said Johnson.

Walker told reporters Thursday he will leave it up to newly appointed DOC Secretary Jon Litchser to decide when and what kind of changes to make at Lincoln Hills.

“I really want to give him the latitude to come in and assess where he believes things are at, not only at Lincoln Hills, but anywhere else in the system and to make recommendations to me and ultimately to share with the Legislature and the public,” Walker said.

A senate committee will consider Litscher’s appointment at a hearing next Wednesday.