Juvenile inmates filed a class action lawsuit against Wisconsin, alleging that the state used pepper spray excessively and kept teens in solitary confinement for weeks or months at a time, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Over eight months last year, a 14-year-old boy was kept in solitary for all but two weeks, the lawsuit alleges. Pepper spray was used nearly 200 times over 10 months at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, which share a campus. “The state routinely subjects these youth to unlawful solitary confinement, mechanical restraints, and pepper spraying,” attorney Rachel Graham said in the suit. “Prior to state and federal raids on the facility at the end of 2015, staff also regularly physically abused youth in the facility.”
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Madison by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. The facilities have been under criminal investigation for child abuse and neglect for two years, but prosecutors have not said whether or when they might file charges. The Journal Sentinel has reported that state officials missed repeated warning signs at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake. Contributing to the problems were lax management, confusion over policies, a lack of communication, and chronic staff shortages.