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Wisconsin’s juvenile prisons face second lawsuit in a week

in Sirens/Wisconsin news

A former inmate at Copper Lake School for Girls has filed a federal lawsuit alleging staff ignored a series of warning signs that could have prevented her attempted suicide.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, is the second federal action involving Wisconsin’s troubled youth prisons in a week. Civil rights groups on Jan. 23 filed a lawsuit alleging guards at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake needlessly place inmates in solitary confinement and improperly use pepper spray. The state’s two juvenile prisons share a campus 30 miles north of Wausau.

The new lawsuit alleges then-16-year-old Sydni Briggs told prison staff on multiple occasions that she was having suicidal thoughts, beginning in October 2015. She hanged herself in her cell weeks later. Briggs survived, but emerged from a months-long coma with severe brain damage and will require around the clock care for the rest of her life. (S.S.)

In the first 10 months of 2016, there were 135 attempts of self-harm at Copper Lake alone, according to prison records. That comes to an attempt almost once every other day in an institution that holds 20 to 35 inmates at a time.

The lawsuit alleges that the staff’s indifference and failure to act amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

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