Wisconsin juvenile prison staffing shortages hamper progress: report

Operations are at the best they have been since 2019 at an embattled Wisconsin juvenile prison, while staffing shortages are hampering further progress, according to the latest report by a court-ordered monitor.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Thursday on the latest findings of the monitor overseeing the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls in Irma, north of Wausau.

On most days, only 50% of staff are present, prison monitor Teresa Abreu said in her report covering November through the end of January.

When there were adequate staffing levels, youths went to school, did recreation outside and spent more waking hours out of their room, Abreu said.

In her latest visit, Abreu said she "did not encounter a single staff or youth that did not have a positive attitude ... Staff and leadership’s commitment to youth and to this reform effort is evident in every aspect of the operation."

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The report, the 16th since 2019, is part of a settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Wisconsin, Juvenile Law Center and Quarles & Brady law firm that highlighted dangerous conditions and abuse faced by teens at the prisons.

The prisons are slated to be closed and replaced by a facility in Milwaukee County, but completion of that is likely years away.