Lincoln Hills School for Boys

Wisconsin is evolving in the way in which it treats its juvenile offenders in state run facilities. On Thursday, an assembly committee approved legislation that would close both Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls in northern Wisconsin in favor of giving counties more control.

In recent years, the two facilities have been marred by lawsuits and a federal investigation into how kids there are treated. While some state lawmakers are singing the plans praises but counties have some concerns.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections

There’s a new proposal for where to house juvenile inmates after the troubled Lincoln Hills prison closes. Earlier this year, Gov. Scott Walker unveiled a plan to shutter Lincoln Hills in northern Wisconsin by 2020. But on Tuesday, a number of Walker’s fellow Republicans – and Democrats – shared their idea to have counties house the less serious offenders and help cover the costs. 

Legislative leaders touted the plan as a cheaper solution to what Walker had proposed.

It appears Gov. Walker’s proposal to close two troubled juvenile prisons in northern Wisconsin is on a fast track. He says he wants the Republican-controlled legislature to approve his plan this year, after saying earlier this month that lawmakers could take it up next year. Legislative leaders plan to meet Wednesday to discuss the feasibility.


Lincoln Hills School has been plagued by allegations of abuse and mismanagement for years. The juvenile correctional facility located in Irma, Wisconsin has been the location of on-going investigations by state and federal agencies. 

The people in charge of the facility have been accused endangering the lives of the teens in their care. Now, Governor Walker has announced a plan to close Lincoln Hills School, and open five regional centers to handle juvenile offenders.

Lincoln Hills

The state of Wisconsin is changing the way it handles some of its worst juvenile offenders. On Thursday, Gov. Walker unveiled plans to close the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls in Irma, and instead, create five smaller regional facilities scattered across the state.

Many prisoners hail from Milwaukee and the centers have been plagued by reports of abuse of inmates and correctional officers.  Advocates who have been pushing Walker to make such a move, say it's a step in the right direction, but there’s still more work to be done.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Problems at the state’s troubled youth prison, Lincoln Hills, continue to come to light. Complaints regarding inmate treatment have surfaced over the last two years while at the same time, reports have also surfaced about teens attacking guards. A federal probe of the facility continues.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Milwaukee community leaders are calling on Gov. Scott Walker to close the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile facilities in northern Wisconsin. The state-run prisons have been plagued by accusations of abuse – from both inmates and guards.

Many inmates are from Milwaukee. It’s unclear whether the governor will comply with the request.

LaToya Dennis

It’s been a couple years since news broke about allegations of inmate abuse at two state-run juvenile prisons in northern Wisconsin. Still, concerns remain about the safety of the teens -- and staff -- at the boys' prison, Lincoln Hills, and the neighboring facility for girls, Copper Lake. 

Tuesday, Lincoln Hills was put on lockdown, so staff could search for weapons and contraband. Since the start of the investigation, some elected officials have pushed for alternatives to the juvenile prisons. Progress has been slow.


Wendy Peterson has served as superintendent of Lincoln Hills & Copper Lake Schools since April of last year. Next week, she'll begin working as the facility's education director.

Peterson asked officials at the state Department of Corrections for the transfer. She said serving as superintendent at the youth prison near Irma, WI was keeping her from her family.

The facility's deputy superintendent will take over for Peterson, while a search is underway for a permanent replacement.

Peterson's predecessor was Wayne Olson, who held the job for four months.

LaToya Dennis

A federal judge told Wisconsin on Friday that the way it treats incarcerated youth is unconstitutional. Of particular concern is the use of pepper spray, handcuffs and shackles – as well as solitary confinement. 

The ACLU of Wisconsin took the matter to court. The judge ordered the group and the state to submit a plan, in two weeks, to change practices. The Lincoln Hill School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls have been at the center of major investigations, over the treatment of youth.

LaToya Dennis

There are more allegations of the mistreatment of juvenile inmates at two Wisconsin facilities, the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has filed a lawsuit alleging cruel and unusual punishment, over the use solitary confinement and pepper spray.

The lawsuit is the latest sign that problems remain. Two years ago, authorities began investigating reports of physical abuse and neglect of youth at the facilities.

What Role Did Trauma-Informed Care Play in Alleged Lincoln Hills Abuse?

May 24, 2016
Dan Young / USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

A new approach being championed by the state of Wisconsin is being blamed by a union official for breakdowns in security at Wisconsin’s two juvenile prisons that are now the targets of criminal and civil rights investigations.

Lincoln Hills

Last week, the Wisconsin Senate confirmed Jon Litscher as the new secretary of the Department of Corrections. He’s taking over while investigations continue into reports of abuse and neglect at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls. The previous secretary, Ed Wall, resigned in February.  When the allegations hit the media we spoke with the mother of inmate assigned to Lincoln Hills. We caught back up with her to find out what, if anything, has changed at the juvenile facilities. The mother’s name has been changed to protect her minor son. 

Dept. of Corrections

A national advocacy campaign is calling on states to close all juvenile detention centers, starting with the oldest and "most notorious." High on the list is Lincoln Hills in northern Wisconsin.

Federal authorities are investigating reports that young people there have been abused and neglected.

The allegations don’t surprise Liz Ryan, CEO of Youth First. The group is urging communities to create local options for young offenders.

Racine County

Federal authorities continue investigating allegations of assault and abuse at Wisconsin's juvenile prison, Lincoln Hills. Recently, a former Racine County judge revealed that he wrote to Gov. Scott Walker about problems there four years ago. His complaints went unanswered. Afterward, Racine County pulled its youth from the facility and brought them closer to home. Yet the county had begun scaling back more than a decade ago.