Iowa girls sue over alleged abuse at Wisconsin youth prison

Lincoln Hills School

MADISON — Two Iowa teenagers filed federal lawsuits alleging they were placed in solitary confinement for months at Wisconsin’s troubled youth prison even after they both tried to kill themselves.

One of the girls alleges she placed her head beneath a cot to hurt herself after she became suicidal in solitary confinement, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. A guard then walked on top of the cot in order to tighten it around her neck, her lawsuit alleges.

She also claims she didn’t get any medical attention was sent back to her cell alone after guards found her unresponsive with a nightgown around her neck in November 2015.

The girls were sent to the prison in Irma that year because Iowa officials had closed a similar facility over allegations of abuse, according to the lawsuits. They were inmates at the prison starting in March and July of 2015 and were held there until February and August of 2016. They were both 16 years old at the time.

The girls allege they spent four and five months in solitary and were let out of their cells for two hours a day. They argue their mental health deteriorated during the isolation. The second girl alleged she tried to hang and cut herself and received more time in solitary as punishment.

Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook said the agency is reviewing the new lawsuits.

The filings are the fourth and fifth lawsuits filed in federal court this year alleging prison staff have been placing inmates in solitary too often and using pepper spray and mechanical restraints too much. A judge earlier this year ordered prison staff to dramatically reduce the use of solitary, pepper spray and shackles. Department of Corrections officials have said prison staff will comply.

The FBI is currently investigating conditions at the prison.