- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Federal officials looking into abuse allegations at Wisconsin’s youth prison are trying to determine if criminal charges are warranted and whether another investigation into civil rights violations is in order.

In addition to the criminal investigation headed by the FBI, federal agents are also looking into the possibility of a pattern of civil rights violations at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls in northern Wisconsin, according to U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil.

He said that after the evidence is reviewed, the findings will be sent to U.S. Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who heads the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division. If a new investigation is ordered, the state could face a lawsuit or consent decree mandating changes.

Allegations of abuse first came to light in December when state Department of Justice agents began an investigation into claims at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake ranging from sexual assault to misconduct in public office.

Milwaukee County recently talked about pulling its inmates from the prison, putting the future of the Lincoln Hills School - and dozens of juvenile offenders - in limbo.

If the county follows through, Lincoln Hills would lose more than half its population and half its operating budget, which comes largely from county payments of $284 per day per youth. The approximately $13 million funding loss would mean significant cuts or possible closure of the troubled facility, leaving uncertainty about where the remaining 50 to 100 youth would be housed.

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