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Politics & Government

FBI Joins Investigation of Alleged Abuse at Wisconsin Juvenile Prison

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The FBI confirms that it has dispatched agents to Lincoln Hills School for Boys to investigate claims of assaults against juveniles and of management cover-ups of problems. The state Dept. of Justice has also been investigating reports of attacks and misconduct. Some accounts allege broken arms and wrists.

On Friday, the state Dept. of Corrections announced that it is making 13 changes in order to make the juvenile facilities more safe. Steps include ordering body cameras for security staff to wear during all interactions with the young inmates.

The agency also says it has placed, on leave, all employees identified as having harmed juveniles or putting them in jeopardy of being harmed.

After the DOC's announcement, Gov. Walker declared the facility safe.  He said he just learned, within the past two weeks, that the nearly year-long investigation was focused on more than a couple employees.

In Milwaukee, County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde insisted that it is time for Wisconsin to examine the effectiveness of its juvenile justice system and reconsider whether the juvenile facility in Irma "is the most appropriate placement for delinquent Milwaukee County youths, many of whom come from black and brown communities.

"This institution is located in a rural community about 3.5 hours from Milwaukee. I question whether the demographic makeup between Lincoln Hills staff and sentenced urban youths was a contributing factor to what has been called a ‘culture of indifference,’ and a ‘toxic environment,’” Moore Omokunde said.

Several Wisconsin legislators and people in the juvenile criminal justice system say they heard troubling accounts about relations between staff and inmates at Lincoln Hills months ago and reported them to the DOC. The agency says it contacted the state DOJ which began investigating early in 2015.

In October, a judge ordered a secret John Doe probe - which can grant immunity in exchange for information, after he determined a range of potential crimes may have occurred. Those reportedly include sexual assault, child neglect and abuse, intimidation of witnesses and tampering with public records.

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