The plaintiffs seeking to end abuses at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile state prisons was a far stronger preliminary injunction to accomplish their goal than state defendants will agree to, according to federal court records.
The two sides disagree on solitary confinement / restrictive housing reforms, some pepper spray reforms, and the scope of the order. They do agree, however, that the use of tethering, or handcuffing a youth's wrists to a belt around the waist, should be eliminated.
A draft preliminary injunction was filed Friday by the lawyers in the case. The document listed areas of agreement and disagreement. U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson will ultimately decide which provisions to accept or reject.
The plaintiffs, present and former inmates at the facilities, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Juvenile Law Center, with pro-bono assistance from Quarles & Brady. Defendants include Lincoln Hills, Copper Lake, and Department of Corrections officials, including Secretary Jon Litscher.
Below are some of the key provisions in the draft document. The entire document is at the bottom of this post.
Areas of agreement
(Lincoln Hills School) and (Copper Lake School) should not place youth in solitary / restrictive housing for non-violent or minor infractions.
School staffs should not confine youth in pre-hearing restrictive housing unless the youth presents an immediate and substantial risk of great bodily harm to self or others. all:
All use of restrictive housing / solitary should be justified in writing.
Youth should receive rehabilitative programming.
Tethering should be eliminated; handcuffing should be minimized.
Areas of disagreement
Youths with mental illness
Plaintiffs: LHS/CLS should stop locking youth with mental health diagnoses in restrictive housing. If a youth with a mental illness becomes violent, the school should consider alternative placements.
Defendants: The schools can continue to use solitary / restrictive housing for youths with mental illness, but those placements should be reviewed by psychological service unit (PSU). (The unit already has come under sharp criticism.)
Plaintiffs: The time a youth is held in pre-hearing restrictive housing should be limited to 24 hours.
Defendants: Pre-hearing restrictive housing should be limited to three business days.
Punitive solitary / restrictive housing
Plaintiffs: Punitive use of restrictive housing should be limited to three days, with a monthly aggregated limit of four days.
Defendants: Punitive use of restrictive housing should be limited to seven days, with no monthly limit.
Plaintiffs: Youth must be out of their cells for at least eight hours per day, including at least six hours of structured activities, including on non-school days.
Defendants: Youths should be out of their cells a minimum of two hours per day, absent an immediate and substantial threat of harm or a youth's refusal to come out of his or her room.
Plaintiffs: Except in emergencies, medical and mental health staff, if on site, must be present when chemical agents are used against youths. If medical and mental health staff are not on site, they should be consulted as soon as practicable.
Defendants: Do not agree that medical and mental health staff need to be present, but do agree they should be consulted as soon as practicable.
Plaintiffs: The schools should implement a positive behavior program management program within three months.
New staff should be trained in de-escalation techniques.
The schools should establish training protocols to ensure staff is trained in adolescent development, background characteristics of youth, signs of mental illness, dealing with youth with post-traumatic youth, and working with youth with mental illness.
Defendants: Establishing such a programs and training is not necessary to the terms of the injunction.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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