Union official: Unrest at Lincoln Hills youth prison sends 5 workers to hospital

MADISON, Wis. — Violence by inmates at Wisconsin's juvenile prison sent five staff members to the hospital Sunday night, a retired Lincoln Hills union steward said Tuesday.

Details about what happened Sunday were still being gathered by the former union leader, Doug Curtis, and Department of Corrections officials. Department spokesman Tristan Cook said Tuesday that he didn't have any confirmed information he could provide about what happened.

Curtis said he did not know the extent of the injuries, but that one employee may need knee surgery.

"It's on and on up there," Curtis said of the juvenile prison in Irma, about 30 miles north of Wausau. "It's happening almost daily."

A federal investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse and child neglect at Lincoln Hills began in 2015 and has yet to conclude. No one has been charged. Numerous lawsuits have also been filed, including one by teen inmates represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Juvenile Law Center.

A federal judge in that case in July ordered the prison to sharply reduce its use of pepper spray, solitary confinement and shackles. Workers have said that order has led to increased inmate violence.

Gov. Scott Walker's administration told the judge earlier this month that it has not yet fully complied with the order because of ongoing "significant unrest" at the prison. Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher on Thursday insisted that the prison was safe for guards and inmates.

A pair of northern Wisconsin lawmakers last week asked the judge to reverse the order and released emails from workers who described increasing violence since the use of solitary confinement, pepper spray and shackles was reduced. One teacher two weeks ago was knocked out and sent to the hospital after being punched by an inmate.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported on Sunday's violence. It said there were a pair of inmate-on-staff assaults that included an inmate hurling pieces of a plastic chair at a guard.

Curtis said there was fear among staff that inmates were practicing for a larger disruption.