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“It’s no help at all:” Federal lawsuit alleges cruel and unusual punishment at Lincoln Hills

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MADISON -- Two civil rights groups decided to file a lawsuit challenging conditions at Wisconsin's youth prison because state and federal investigations at the facility have apparently changed nothing. The ACLU of Wisconsin and Juvenile Law Center are suing state officials for cruel and unusual punishment at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls -- youth prisons in Irma. This, on behalf of four Milwaukee teenagers.

The lawsuit says guards routinely used pepper spray, and even "bear mace" against the young inmates, and kept them in solitary confinement for up to two months at a time. This, at a supposed "school" meant for rehabilitation.

Larry Dupuis

Larry Dupuis

While announcing the lawsuit Tuesday, January 24th in Milwaukee, ACLU officials said investigators have witnessed and seen videos of abuse at Lincoln Hills.

"The guards have grabbed him by the neck and are pushing his head against the upper part of his back. Is that really necessary?" Larry Dupuis, ACLU of Wisconsin said.


The 40-page federal lawsuit claims up to 20 percent of the inmate population sits in solitary confinement for 22 or 23 hours a day, some for two months at a time.

Meranda Davis said her daughter attempted suicide.

Lincoln Hills School

Lincoln Hills School

"She ripped a shirt and tied it around her neck," Davis said.

Meranda Davis

Meranda Davis

Davis, one of the parents suing state officials said she hoped her daughter would be rehabilitated for auto theft and battery.

"That`s what I thought they were going to do, but her being in that place -- and I`m a living witness -- it`s no help at all," Davis said.

Plaintiffs also say in the suit prison guards used pepper spray, and even mace designed to ward off bears 200 times from January through October of 2016.

"The kid I saw was being pepper sprayed for not taking his shoes off," Dupuis said.spray

An abuse scandal at Lincoln Hills uncovered in late 2015 sparked criminal investigations. Several staffers lost their jobs and state officials said they've made improvements.

A spokesman for the Department of Corrections said they're "reviewing the lawsuit," and have "no further comment at this time."

Governor Scott Walker's office was warned as early as 2012 about Lincoln Hills in a letter from a Racine County judge.

Walker has said he never saw the letter.

Lincoln Hills School for Boys

Lincoln Hills School for Boys

"Whether governor Walker has some personal culpability or not, it`s not necessary for us to do that to try to put a stop to this," Dupuis said.

The suit does not name Governor Walker. Through a spokesman, Walker said he's confident in Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher's ability to reform and lead the agency.

Litscher is the lead defendant in this case.


  • grunt

    These young people are the worst of the worst.
    Solitary confinement protected them, other young people, and the staff.

  • deletedagain

    Awww, their rights are being abused for denying our rights ,breaking the law in the first place. Then when they don’t comply with the rules in prison they are disciplined.. As usual “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”

  • Bigbird

    I totally agree with you 100 percent. They always try to down our ppl but at least Billy is not in somebodies corner shooting up with a needle committing suicide and molesting the neighbors kids.
    Black LIVES matter!!!! if they did not know

  • Bronco billy

    They don’t recognize authority and are defiant because of their upbringing. If they listen and be model inmates it would be very nice for them. Since most of them act like animals they need to be broken like a horse before released into society.

    • Letsgetrealpeople

      Awwww-I feel so bad for these misguided youths. Maybe if their parents would have shown them how “proper” society lives and had some guidance they would not be there. MORE NEED TO BE SENT UP.
      What??? they are getting “repremanded” for their disrespect while being confined???? As the other posts stated-Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” Grow up and face your fate. You still have time to turn around and be something positive. Learn from your mistakes……. If not then it is what it is deal with it. These “Be tough” wanna be thugs punks on the street; but now you are incarcerated and you can’t deal with your fate? TOO BAD!!!! My tears weep for you and your families (Not to mention the vicitims live’s you impacted)
      Instead of closing this facility- Expand it!!!!-send every lil car stealing, drug dealing, disrespectful thieves, thugs/punks (i.e. the good lil angels that their family’s state they are) that can’t respect the law/rules there and let them know what happens. They may even have a family renunion!!!!!
      What I’m sure we are NOT hearing is how these “little angels” are acting towards AUTHORITY and the rules that are enforced-which is why they are treated as such. But the liberals give them the idea that what they get for their actions is wrong.
      Not to sound racist- but what is the percentage of race? And with regards to race-what is the percentage of problematic youths and where did they come from???? Don’t see these stats.

  • Dana Goetz

    Rehabilitation comes from showing the right way to act not teaching them more ways to harm others.
    These administrators should be investigated and fired if found guilty.


      Yeah-that’s the liberal way. Why don’t you go up there and have a day at it. I can see it now. You’ll walk out of there crying with the respect you got with your “Right Way” (i.e. LEFT WAY) attitude.
      Talk to these guards and employees that work there. I will guaranty you there are plenty of stories that we are not hearing. Just these instances from these prospective “lil angels” that are the only stories that are fed to the “hungry” media. Jail is not a vacation-nor daycare. You don’t respect rules-then you deserve what you get back. Why are they there???? HUH????? Tired of this BS!!!!!!

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