August incident prompts operational changes at Lincoln Hills

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 4:33 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has instituted additional operational changes following a thorough review of an August incident at Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School. The incident caused around $3,300 in damage to the facility.

On August 1, a group of youth ran from their escorts while walking back to their housing unit. Some in the group then broke exterior windows to other housing units, allowing more youth into the yard. In all, 15 windows were broken.

According to a press release from the Department of Corrections, the changes made following this incident include:

- Adjusting recreation times so multiple units are not outside at the same time

- Creating a practice of securing recreation equipment (students used basketballs to break windows during the incident)

- Increasing frequency of ground searches to pick up debris that can be utilized to break windows

- Installing safety screens on windows of the living units. The safety screens are a temporary safety measure until a previously-planned project to install security glass windows is completed in 2021.

“The windows we will be installing next year cannot be easily broken,” noted DOC Division of Juvenile Corrections Administrator Ron Hermes. “This will keep any future situations from growing, as this one did, when windows were broken to allow more youth outside.”

In addition to the attack glass, a separate project likely to begin this fall should reduce the ability of youth to access roofs as some did during the August 1 incident. Staff are also making procedural adjustments to better control the way youth enter and exit the main doors of housing units.

In addition to these changes, staff will be implementing Dialectical Behavior Therapy. According the Department of Corrections, Dialectical Behavior Therapy is an evidenced-based treatment that promotes self-regulation and pro-social interpersonal skills as a way to help youth understand the cues that trigger their emotions. Staff began training in August in order to make this therapy part of the standard behavioral motivation programming for all youth in the facility.

“We’re confident the Dialectical Behavior Therapy we are instituting facility-wide will, in the future, help us avoid and resolve situations like the one on August 1st,” said Hermes. “It’s the next step in transforming the schools from a traditional incarceration setting to a facility focused on rehabilitation and treatment.”

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