Walker's staff told in 2012 about prison issues

Walker's staff told in 2012 about prison issues
Posted at 3:34 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 16:34:34-05

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Racine County judge sent a letter to Gov. Scott Walker four years ago warning him of possible criminal conduct at the state's youth prison that's now under investigation.

Walker has expressed surprise at the more recent allegations of abuse at Lincoln Hills School in Irma. But Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick says the governor was not shown the letter from Judge Richard Kreul in 2012.

"At the time, staff in our office referred the case to the Department of Corrections, which had already taken steps to address this incident," Patrick said in an email.

Kreul's letter was prompted by him learning that a juvenile was allegedly sexual assaulted by another inmate and that prison staff were accused of being lax in their response.

"Almost 50 years in the legal system and I've seen and heard a lot, so (I'm) not naive as to what `prison' is all about. But the indifference in this sordid tale is absolutely inexcusable," Kreul wrote to Walker.

Racine County social services caseworker Dan Dragic sent an accompanying letter that detailed the assault and how prison staff handled the matter, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal. The memo indicates the victim was not taken to the emergency room by prison staff until after a basketball game was over, which was three hours after the assault, and was placed in a special unit for disruptive inmates a day after the incident.

The assailant was criminally charged and pleaded no contest to battery by a prisoner and fourth-degree sexual assault, according to the Department of Corrections.

Officials from Racine County, where the victim was from, law enforcement or child protective services weren't notified by prison officials, despite being mandated by law, according to the caseworker's memo.

"I'll be thinking long and hard before sending another youth to that place," the judge said in his letter to Walker.

Racine County then stopped sending juvenile offenders to the prison.

The state Department of Justice opened an investigation last year into allegations ranging from sexual assault to misconduct in public office. The Lincoln County District Attorney launched a John Doe probe into the allegations in October, and the FBI has joined the investigation.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said Friday that it's appalling that the governor's administration knew about problems at Lincoln Hills as early as 2012. She said she can't believe that the governor had no other communications about issues at the prison besides the judge's letter.

"This is unacceptable," she said. "I don't know why someone didn't pay attention."