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Wisconsin's youth prison continues to grapple with issues

Posted at 3:18 PM, Jul 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-01 16:18:57-04

A court-appointed monitor reports that conditions at Wisconsin's troubled youth prison are improving but bathrooms remain dirty, staffing shortages persist and guards are still using pepper spray too often.

Monitor Teresa Abreu added in a report filed in federal court Monday that staffers lack skills to calm down inmates or restrain them.

The report was based on Abreu's three-day visit to the facility outside Irma from May 31 to June 2.

The state agreed to submit to ongoing monitoring at the prison as part of a 2018 deal with the American Civil Liberties Union to settle allegations of guard-on-inmate abuse.

State Department of Corrections officials didn't immediately respond to an email.

Gov. Tony Evers has signed a bill that gives the state Department of Corrections another six months to close Wisconsin's troubled youth prison.

Allegations of guard-on-prisoner abuse have plagued the facility near Irma for years. Legislators last year passed a law forcing the DOC to close the prison by Jan. 1, 2021, and create smaller facilities for juvenile offenders.

Evers has said that timetable is too aggressive. He says replacement facilities won't be ready by then.

Republican Rep. Michael Schraa introduced a bill that keeps the prison open until July 1, 2021. The Assembly and Senate approved the bill in June.

Evers announced Monday that he signed the bill Friday. He said in a news release that his top priority remains getting kids out of the youth prison.