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State Democrats introduce bill to close Lincoln Hills

MADISON (CBS58) – State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) introduced a bill to close the state’s only youth prison in Wisconsin.

Lincoln Hills has been under federal investigation for several years after allegations of inmate abuse and neglect. Most recently, five staff members were sent to the hospital after being attacked by a young offender.

Pandora Lobacz is a teacher at Lincoln Hills. She was punched in the face about two weeks ago. She said these attacks on staff happen too often.

“We’re not going to be able to provide therapy or any other level of intervention until we make that a safe place to work," Lobacz said.

Sen. Lena Taylor said if steps can’t be taken to ensure safety, Lincoln Hills must go.

"We've said that they need to close Lincoln Hills,” said Sen. Lena Taylor. “If we can't make sure there's staff, if we can't make sure there's adequate training, if we can't make sure that kids are closer to their families and their communities as best practices tell us we need to do in juvenile correction, then we need change it.”

Taylor argues young offenders should be closer to family in the counties they’re from, not in Irma, Wisconsin where the facility is located. A large number of inmates are from the Milwaukee area.

“We need to stop the harm that we are causing now," she said.

Doug Curtis, union steward at Lincoln Hills, said the assaults are happening too often.

"This is what people have to think about on their way to work. Am I going to make it home? Or am I going to the hospital tonight?" he said.

Sen. Taylor said, "This is horrible, no child and no correction officer should be assaulted.”

“It is unacceptable,” she said. “But I also know that we're letting Lincoln Hills to breed harm to both our employees and the children we're responsible for."  

After the attacks on staff, Governor Scott Walker sent a letter to the secretary of the Department of Corrections, Jon Litscher. Walker wants him to hire an interim superintendent at Lincoln Hills.

Wendy Peterson stepped down and took a lower level job about two months ago.

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