Federal judge orders changes at Wisconsin juvenile prisons

MADISON — A federal judge says Wisconsin's use of solitary confinement in its juvenile prisons poses "acute, immediate and enduring" harm to young inmates and is ordering that it be dramatically scaled back.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson on Friday also ordered that shackling juvenile inmates and the use of pepper spray be used much more sparingly than now.

Peterson ordered the state Department of Corrections and attorneys for inmates who challenged the disciplinary tactics to report back in two weeks on how they will structure changes he ordered be made.

He did not immediately order that the practices stop as those challenging them as unconstitutional had wanted.

But Peterson says Wisconsin's practices at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prisons are out of step with national norms.

ACLU of Wisconsin Legal Director Larry Dupuis issued the following statement:

“We are happy that the Court recognized that most juvenile correctional facilities no longer use pepper spray, restraints or punitive solitary confinement, and we don’t need to use them in Wisconsin to keep our facility safe."

Jessica Feierman, Associate Director of Juvenile Law Center, said the following:

“We are pleased that the Court took this action to protect youth from harmful, degrading, and unconstitutional practices. Young people in Wisconsin – and across the country – deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”