IRMA, Wis. (WSAW) – Department of Corrections incident reports, obtained by 7 Investigates, show several Lincoln Hills youth counselors, fearing for their safety, shut themselves inside a guard booth in March after confronting juvenile offenders over marijuana use inside the state’s only youth prison.
“I will never forget the look on his face,” a youth counselor wrote in the March 12, 2018 report. “At least 6 or 8 times he tried to smash thru them. I got on my radio and was yelling ‘emergency.’”
The incident reportedly happened March 11, 2018 at 9:10 p.m.
Throughout multiple reports, youth counselors tell similar stories of returning from a basketball game and smelling what they suspected to be marijuana. When the juvenile offenders were asked about possible drug use, they became angry.
“I began to worry about myself and my staff’s safety as they were becoming more agitated and loud. I started to walk back towards the booth realizing that help hasn’t shown up yet and decided to push my alarm button,” the youth counselor wrote.
At that point the juveniles reportedly became violent as the staff slammed themselves through the booth’s door and shut it.
“Just then a large object hit the door window and it shattered sending glass flying all over us,” the youth counselor wrote. “As they continued to attempt to break the other windows, a large piece of wood at least three feet long came flying thru the broken window nearly striking us.”
The shattered glass cut another unnamed staff member. At that point, a third unnamed staff member began pepper spraying the youth, stopping the attack.
Consistent stories shared in the reports show the youth offenders’ motive was having their marijuana activity discovered.
“Why did you have to ruin our buzz?, we just wanted to chill,” the youth counselor recalled one of the juveniles saying.
The documents also reveal another incident earlier that evening at 6:15 p.m., where three other juvenile offenders were discovered in a room with the door covered by a blanket. While multiple staff smelled a marijuana-like odor, no drugs or contraband were found.
It is unclear from the reports if any of the nine total offenders tested positive for drug use, or who supplied the marijuana.
In a statement DOC Spokesperson Tristan Cook said, “Department employees became aware that youth at CLS/LHS had allegedly used an illicit substance and placed them in restrictive housing. DOC investigated the incident and banned community visitors who we believed had introduced contraband from visiting CLS/LHS for one year. DOC referred the incident to law enforcement. I defer to the Lincoln County Sheriff and District Attorney regarding criminal charges.”
7 Investigates is in the process of requesting answers from Lincoln County officials.
Cook went onto say, “Copper Lake School/Lincoln Hills School has taken a number of steps to prevent illicit substances from entering CLS/LHS, including new policies, installation of an security x ray screening machine, and limitations regarding items that can be brought into the facility.”
This year, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill overhauling Wisconsin’s juvenile justice system, which includes removing offenders from Lincoln Hills by 2021. In the meantime critics, including union representatives, remain worried about the youth prison’s conditions and harm that could come to staff and juvenile offenders during the transition period.