UPDATE: Governor Speaks Out About Probe Into Potential Crimes at Lincoln Hill School for Boys
Governor Scott Walker said Friday that he believe appropriate and swift action is being taken to address concerns about the Lincoln Hill School for Boys.
"We immediately instructed the Secretary of Corrections to be as aggressive as possible," said the Governor. "Both on personnel and on policy. They took immediate action as you saw from the memo they provided. Not only do they have a new administrator, they have a new superintendent at the facility and staff members."
Former staff members and inmates at the correctional facility are also coming forward.
They say there were regular pepper spraying and other mistreatment against the boys at the Lincoln County facility.
"This kid named Stimpy. He had got gassed at least ten times in the short time while I was there." said former inmate Nathan Bowie.
A former youth counselor described a culture of chaos. A place with potential for abuse where management and workers were at odds and the safety of students and staff were in danger.
"Every single day I would walk in and wait to hear about what happened the night before," said Sidney Peterson. "What fight there was, who got hurt, who's not working there anymore, who's on leave, who's under investigation."
On Thursday, Rep. Mandela Barnes of Milwaukee issued a scathing statement.
“I am shocked by the horrific allegations of cruel, unjust, and potentially criminal behavior at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys. However, I am unfortunately not surprised given the systemic dismantling of vital public services by Gov. Walker and Wisconsin Republicans, including gross malpractices within our corrections system.
Barnes expressed hope that the investigation will shine a light on unsafe behavior and what he called a toxic environment and maybe just lead to real reform.
“Issues like overcrowding, lack of accountability, and failing to afford basic safety standards for both staff and inmates have led to a broken system that desperately needs immediate attention from our state’s leaders.
Barnes said many youth from Milwaukee are at the Wausau facility. He also expressed concern for the safety of the state.
"I call on leaders and stakeholders across the state to ensure we accomplish this with any and all available resources.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating allegations of abuse.
One complaint came in as recently as November.
The public got wind of the probe through a leaked Department of Corrections Memo which indicates the investigation has been going for almost a year.
Neither state nor federal officials are offering comment.