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Mother of Lincoln Hills Inmate Speaks Out

Department of Corrections
Lincoln Hills School for Boys

Several days ago, state and federal agents swooped into the Lincoln Hills School for Boys in Irma, Wisconsin. For months, there were whispers about problems at the facility. Then last week, stories broke through of broken bones, fights and sexual assaults.

WUWM's LaToya Dennis met with the mother of an inmate. The Department of Corrections will not verify any of the accounts she shares, but says serious accusations are under investigation at Lincoln Hills.

The mother’s name has been changed to protect her minor son. He is serving a seven-year sentence.

Kelli Moore is quick to point out that her son says he has been never abused at Lincoln Hills, but he isn’t surprised by the allegations that have surfaced. They include that some juvenile offenders have been physically abused.

“The boy, he must of done something, was disobeying a rule or the staff told him to do something and he wasn’t cooperating. And the staff got him down on the ground, and this is where he saw the staff take the boys arm and wrench it up behind his back. But, what happened afterwards was worse," Moore says. "This he didn’t see, but he knows that the boy lost two toes. When they took him to the hole and the boy was fighting the staff, he was still fighting them, he stuck his foot out of the door, like in the door jam, and as the staff, they shut the door and I’m sure those doors are very big and heavy and crushed two toes, and I guess he had to have them amputated. That’s according to my son. Two weekends ago he told me this happened."

There have also been allegations of sexual abuse. Moore says her son has relayed such stories.

“There is sexual relations between some of the female staff and the boy inmates. I said how do you know it’s on a regular basis? He goes I don’t know how to explain it to you, it’s just well known. I also said is there anything going on in between the inmates and he said yes. He said somebody was raped up here by another—one male inmate raped another male inmate. That’s terrifying. And I’m really understanding why my son is telling me that any medication they put him on is not working to control his anxiety,” Moore says.

Moore says her son has been at Lincoln Hills for more than a year. He’s told her it’s common for fights to occur and quickly get out of control.

“He’s told me so many times about how big these fights can get...10, 12, 15 even. I mean he did say the staff is very stretched thin, they’re very stressed. He could see it, and he could see how these kids push them to a breaking point. He says that there are certain kids that will provoke the staff until they can’t take it anymore. That’s a quote from him,” Moore says.

Still Moore says it’s the job of staff to handle situations without abusing minors. She says her son will turn 18 in May, and then he’s supposed to move to an adult prison. Moore says if it’s this bad in a juvenile detention center, she can only imagine what adult prison will be like.

We asked the state Dept. of Corrections to respond to the details this mother shared with us. While they did not respond to specific allegations, the DOC says when it became aware of potential abuse at Lincoln Hills, the agency summoned the Department of Justice to investigate. The DOC adds that in recent days, it has enacted steps to ensure the safety of all juveniles in its custody.

Kelli Moore speaks about her son’s experience since he was sentenced to seven years at a facility with WUWM's LaToya Dennis

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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