Guards at a Wisconsin youth detention facility were found to have pepper-sprayed teenage inmates more than 100 times in the first six months of the year, reports the Wisconsin State Journal.
The information was based on a report filed by the state Department of Corrections in federal court. “One inmate at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls in Irma was pepper-sprayed 12 times between January and June … but the majority of the 51 inmates sprayed were pepper-sprayed four or fewer times,” Molly Beck reported.
The vast majority of inmates being pepper-sprayed were housed in the prison’s solitary confinement cells.
The report was ordered by Judge James Peterson in July as part of a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections by former inmates over the department’s use of the practices.
During a two-day hearing in the case, a juvenile prison expert testified that pepper-spray incidents are related to the amount of time some inmates spend in solitary confinement.
The expert testified that some teen inmates are spending so much time alone in solitary confinement that they purposely behave in ways that will trigger being pepper-sprayed so they can receive stimulation and get out of their cells.
Overall, 331 inmates were found to have been peppered-sprayed by guards in the six months the department counted its use of pepper spray to manage behavior.
The report found that the guards used the spray most when inmates were physically resisting staff, refusing directives to stop abusing property in an unsafe manner, refusing to comply with orders to move to another room or location within the facility and keeping their arms hanging outside of a cell’s trap door.
The Department of Corrections (DOC) of Wisconsin will use the data in the report to “prepare a plan to further reduce or eliminate any remaining use of incapacitating agents,” DOC attorney Sam Hall wrote in the report.
The DOC announced that the facility’s administrator, Wendy Peterson, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, would be leaving her post and taking on a smaller role as the prison’s education director.