More violence at Lincoln Hills as Assembly votes to extend closure deadline

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IRMA, Wis. (WSAW) -- Imagine seven juveniles running from one of the living units at Lincoln Hills, Wisconsin's only youth prison. One carrying a stick threatens to hit a youth counselor. A second throws a light bulb, shattering on the ground.

Another picks up a rock and shatters the glass of the school door, then starts punching it to break it further. One more grabs metal stakes swinging at the door. Others throw rocks at living unit windows.

As a youth counselor drives up to assist, a juvenile throws a chunk of asphalt, shattering the windshield. One juvenile begins to approach and a supervisor sprays a one-second burst of pepper spray.

Youth counselors try to gain control. A supervisor directs them to use pepper spray if juveniles fight back or continue damaging property.

Six of the seven juveniles get on the ground. One runs. The supervisor directs them to use the pepper spray gun. The youth counselor sprays. The juvenile puts his hands behind his back.

Five of the seven juveniles were hurt. No staff were injured.

This is all from a 16-page report of an incident on May 10, happening while meetings, budgets, and paperwork to replace Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake Schools continues. The facility will now remain open until July 1, 2021 after the state Assembly voted Thursday to extend the deadline to close the facility by six more months.

"The bottom line is we have to be realistic on how quickly a building can be built, but we also have to make sure that we close Lincoln Hills. That is a top priority for us," Gov. Tony Evers told 7 Investigates during a press conference Thursday.

Republicans and democrats agree the extension is necessary.

Residents in Hortonia, one of the proposed sites for a new facility, have argued against the placement, thus delaying the construction of a facility. They say placing a facility in a town with no police department, in a place designated as a preservation area, without discussing it with town leaders is a safety issue.

Gov. Evers said Act 185, the law requiring Lincoln Hills to close, was rushed. When 7 investigates asked what is being done to keep youth and staff safe in the current facility in the meantime, he gave the response above.

7 Investigates followed up with his administration, they referred us to the Department of Corrections saying, "Sec. Carr and his team there have been very proactive about developing a productive relationship with the court monitor to ensure the safety of the kids and staff. I know they have also been working to foster a culture where all employees feel valued, heard, and respected."

7 Investigates has been trying to schedule interviews with the new leaders at the DOC since January.