Juvenile inmates reached prison roof, threw items at guards
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Four juvenile inmates reached the roof of a Wisconsin prison housing unit in August, throwing shingles, rocks and pieces of metal at guards before they were subdued, an incident report released Thursday under the state open records law shows.
The incident is among a stream of violent clashes between guards and inmates at the prison since a federal court order in July requiring a reduction in the use of pepper spray and solitary confinement.
The shared campuses of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prisons, which house about 160 boy and girl juvenile inmates, have been under federal investigation for nearly three years and are the subject of multiple lawsuits.
On Sunday, five prison workers were hospitalized after a pair of violent clashes with inmates in a housing unit. And two weeks ago, Lincoln Hills teacher Pandora Lobacz was punched in the face and knocked out.
Lobacz contacted Walker’s office on Wednesday and asked to speak with him about issues at the prison. But Walker’s spokesman, Tom Evenson, said the governor has been advised by his attorney not to speak with her because she may sue over the attack.
An incident report released by the state Department of Corrections details the Aug. 3 standoff between staff and inmates. Inmates tore metal pipes from the rooftop and swung them like baseball bats at approaching guards. One inmate stood on the roof doing backflips in between throwing rocks and shingles at guards, the report states.
Guards tried to shoot pepper spray at the inmates, but the wind and heavy rain made it ineffective, the report says.
Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook praised the staff’s handling of the unrest, saying they radioed for assistance, developed a plan in consultation with institution leadership and persuaded one youth to come down from the roof. The other three on the roof were apprehended and placed in solitary confinement after they jumped down, he said.
Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher visited the prison last week and met with staff for three hours, Cook said. Litscher last week declared that the prison was safe for both inmates and workers.
“He had a candid and productive discussion with a number of staff,” Cook said. “While much of the discussion centered on staff safety, a number of other topics were discussed.”
Litscher identified several areas to make improvements, including scheduling changes, expanding the pool of staff available to fill overtime security posts and purchasing personal security alarms for non-security staff, Cook said.
This week, Litscher named Juvenile Corrections Administrator John Paquin as interim superintendent of Lincoln Hills while the search for a permanent person continues with an application deadline of Nov. 12. The post has been open since September, when Wendy Peterson stepped down for a lower-ranking job at the prison.
Paquin said in a memo made public Thursday that he encourages all Corrections staff to reach out to management at the prison with concerns and suggestions they have for improvements.
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