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The Latest: Prison spokesman denies inmates testing staff

October 24, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Latest on Wisconsin juvenile prisons unrest (all times local):

4:45 p.m.

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections says inmates at the state’s juvenile prisons were not “testing” staff to see how they would respond during a disturbance Sunday that sent give staff members to the hospital.

Spokesman Tristan Cook says inmates confined to their rooms were damaging state property. He says staff responded and “subdued the disruptive youth.”

A retired union steward Doug Curtis says staff fear the inmates were practicing for a larger disruption.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson on Tuesday also responded to a pair of lawmakers who raised concerns about his order curbing the use of disciplinary tactics at the prisons. Peterson says, “I will not ignore the safety of either the staff or the youths at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools.”


1:50 p.m.

Gov. Scott Walker is ordering that an interim superintendent be hired at Wisconsin’s juvenile prisons in light of recent attacks against guards and workers at the facilities.

Walker sent a letter Tuesday to Department of Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher ordering him to hire the interim leader. The post has been vacant since September.

Litscher just last week said the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prisons were safe for both guards and inmates.

Walker says in the letter that “We cannot allow individuals convicted of battery, armed robbery, and even murder to feel empowered to attack staff and each other in these institutions.”

He says no matter the challenges, staff working there must have “the tools they need to maintain order in the facilities and protect themselves and to protect the offenders held at these institutions.”


1:27 p.m.

A federal judge is ordering an unscheduled update on conditions at Wisconsin’s juvenile prisons following recent reports of assault.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson on Tuesday gave Gov. Scott Walker’s administration and those who filed a lawsuit challenging disciplinary tactics at the prison to report back by Nov. 10.

Peterson in July ordered the prison to reduce its use of pepper spray, solitary confinement and shackles on the inmates. Walker’s administration told the judge earlier this month that it was making progress toward fulfilling the order, but “significant unrest” made it difficult to implement fully.

Last week a pair of state lawmakers asked Peterson to reverse his order, citing complaints from staff that it had led to an increase in violence. Five staff members were sent to the hospital on Sunday after violent altercations with inmates.


8:54 a.m.

A retired union leader says violence by inmates at Wisconsin’s juvenile prison sent five workers to the hospital Sunday night.

Lincoln Hills retired union steward Doug Curtis said Tuesday that he did not know the extent of the injuries but that one employee may need knee surgery.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook says he doesn’t have information confirmed about what happened Sunday yet and couldn’t immediately provide additional details about the injuries. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the injuries.

The Lincoln Hills juvenile prison is under a federal investigation into abuse of inmates by guards. A federal judge in July ordered the prison to sharply reduce use of pepper spray, solitary confinement and shackles, an order that workers have said has led to increased inmate violence.

Update hourly