MADISON (WKOW) – Wisconsin’s former prisons secretary says the investigation into abuse at Wisconsin's youth prisons was botched, and he'll reveal details in a soon-to-be-published book.
The Lincoln Hills facility in Irma, Wisconsin is the juvenile prison at the center of scandal.
In an interview on WKOW’s Capital City Sunday, former head of the Department of Corrections Ed Wall shed new insight on the scandal, from accusations of guards abusing teens, to inmates rioting and attacking corrections officers.
Wall resigned in 2016 as news of the investigation broke, but he says with this book, he wants to add new insight into the problems at the prisons and to shine a light on the inside workings of the administration of his boss, Gov. Scott Walker.
Wall said he turned down Department of Corrections job the first he was asked. At the time he was the head of the Wisconsin Justice Department’s Division of Criminal Investigation, a job he says he loved.
But eventually he relented and Walker appointed him to the DOC job in 2012. It's a huge department, Wall said, with 10,600 employees and a $2.65 billion budget.
As a former cop, Wall said had a jaded view of corrections.
“You can't go in to head the DOC without having your mind changed,” he said. “Because you get in and realize, 90-something percent of these people are going back to the streets. And if we don't do anything to give them skills, get them their high school diploma to get them employable, then all we're doing is housing people and making worse criminals to go back on the streets.”
Wall said there are many talented and caring politicians out there, but his frustration grew with the governor and the attorney general.
There was a change in Wisconsin that he felt once Walker was elected. He said it scared him a little bit because the same party held governorship, both houses and attorney general’s office.
“And suddenly there was a bravado among people and this feeling of entitlement. And it almost felt like revenge,” he said. “They were gonna make big, bold changes and they didn't care if anybody agreed.”
Wall said he thinks there is value to balanced Legislature. It makes people come together and compromise, instead of by decree.
But he said he didn't have the support they needed at the Department of Corrections.
Just look at Lincoln Hills, he said.
“ I was asking for them to please move along the investigation,” he said. “The AGs office was dragging their feet unbearably on it. I asked the governor's office to intercede dozens of times and was kind of shuffled off. And I couldn't understand why.”
Wall said the FBI involvement at the end was a hail Mary pass by the Department of Justice. “They just wanted to get it out of their lap,” he said.
Wall said he feels the DOJ completely botched the investigation.
He said he went to DOJ when they got info in November of 2014 that kids might be hurt by state employees.
He asked the office of special operations to come in, ID the potential victims and staff that might be involved.
When he got the info back to him in January 2015, he said they should call DCI. But DCI thought it was internal affairs case and didn't want to take it.
”It had been completely botched,” Wall said.
Wall said he doesn’t consider the book retribution for you for being on the outs after the investigation into Lincoln Hills.
“The good things about the DOC is they keep incredible records, and I'll talk about that in my book extensively,” he said. “The DOJ made comments that I should have done more. The DOC did everything we could. The DOJ wouldn't share information with us. They wouldn't give us basics.”
Wall said he’s completed 16 of 18 chapters and has been contacted by multiple publishers.
“I think people need something better to make their judgment on candidates rather than just what they see on TV.”