- Views & Opinions
The ACLU of Wisconsin and Juvenile Law Center, with pro-bono assistance from Quarles & Brady, filed a request for a preliminary injunction in federal court to halt the unconstitutional use of solitary confinement and other inhumane conditions and practices for youth in state-run correctional facilities.
The suit was originally filed in January on behalf of youth confined in the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls.
Earlier this week, the groups filed an amended complaint with additional children incarcerated at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake as plaintiffs.
“Isolating, handcuffing and pepper spraying children is not only dehumanizing and traumatizing,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “It is also unnecessary and counterproductive. As experts in the field show, these practices actually undermine institutional safety and security. As a result, most juvenile correctional facilities no longer use pepper spray, restraints or punitive solitary confinement.”
Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake incarcerate about 150 to 200 youth, some as young as 14 years old. It confines about 15 percent to 20 percent of the youths at any given time in 7 or 8 by 10 foot solitary confinement cells for 22 or 23 hours a day.
The guards keep children in handcuffs attached to a belt around their waists and then handcuffed to a table or desk, during the hour or two they are allowed out of their cells.
Guards throughout Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake also regularly use peppers spray on the youth, causing pain and burning and impairing their breathing and health.
“These practices are so harmful that we’re taking decisive action to stop them immediately,” said Jessica Feierman, associate director of Juvenile Law Center. “Putting children in solitary, shackling them to tables, and pepper spraying them isn’t rehabilitation — it’s abuse.”
The complaint says these practices violate children’s constitutional rights, including their rights to substantive due process, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, as guaranteed by the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The plaintiffs are seeking immediate relief for the young people in these facilities while this case is being litigated.