Wis. AG: Youth prison investigation could continue for another year

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WAUSAU, WIS. (WSAW) -- Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel is opening up about the ongoing investigation at a youth prison in Lincoln County.

During an interview with NewsChannel 7's Hannah Anderson on an unrelated matter, Brad Schimel shared how large of an investigation the Lincoln Hills case is.

“Well, actually, the Department of Corrections reached out to us about a year ago. They had a few specific instances that they were concerned might constitute criminal activity on the part of some staff. So they asked us to open up an investigation into those incidents. As we've worked on it, as is often the case, you start to peel back layers and you find more things. So as we have looked further and further, we have found some additional things. We have communicated back and forth with DOC to let them know what we're finding and they've been taking steps along the way,” Schimel explained of at what point the Department of Justice became involved.

A union representative confirmed about 10 workers are on paid leave while state agents investigate allegations that security staff have been using excessive force against inmates.

“We're dealing with many staff members between the two juvenile institutions and then hundreds and hundreds of residents. We've set out now to talk to all of the staff, all of the residents. We now are working our way out to talk to former residents at the institutions and former staff that no longer work there. We've got quite a bit to bite off. They're all recorded interviews. We'll go through these, reduce these into reports and see what kind of cases we can make if there's something there,” said of the process.

Earlier this month, a union representative told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel one of the workers has been on paid leave for more than a year.

Schimel said with the magnitude of the number of people possibly involved the investigation could still take another year.

“We've got a lot of records to go through. A lot of witnesses to interview. Immediate steps are to be sure there's no one there who might be causing harm to kids currently and, in the meantime, we'll keep working to find the truth,” he said.

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections so far has declined to name the workers, say how long they have been out, or report how much taxpayers have spent on their pay since they went on leave.

According to memo from Ed Wall, Secretary of the DOC, the investigation began in January.

Associated Press contributed to this report