Juvenile facility staff ignores warning signs and emergency call - will pay troubled teen who suffered catastrophic injuries $18.9 million.

[Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

The State of Wisconsin recently agreed to pay nearly $19 million to Sydni Briggs, a young woman who suffered serious brain damage after a suicide attempt at the Copper Lake School For Girls – part of a troubled Wisconsin juvenile prison system. Briggs was just 16 when she was placed at Copper Lake for breaking into a liquor store and stealing several bottles of liquor. On the evening of November 9, 2015 Briggs activated a call light which required staff to immediately respond to her room.

But staff didn’t immediately respond. Despite the fact that guard personnel could actually see into Briggs room, no one responded to the call for 24 minutes. During that time Briggs attempted to hang herself with a torn T-shirt. When prison staff finally responded, Briggs had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. She was revived with CPR and a defibrillator.

An expert determined that Briggs had been hanging for at least two and possibly as long as five minutes. Briggs’ attorney, Eric Haag noted that if guard staff had “…competently done their jobs and fulfilled basic responsibilities, this would not have happened. “

After being revived, Briggs spent 4 months in a coma. She was then moved to a rehab center and now requires a wheelchair. She has the cognitive abilities of a small child. She will require around the clock care for the rest of her life that is projected to cost at least $200,000 a year.

Months before Briggs attempted to kill herself an audit of the facility noted that prison staff routinely failed to respond to call lights when they were activated by residents. And just three weeks prior to her attempted suicide, Briggs told prison psychiatrist that she had suicidal thoughts and felt life was not worth living. Despite those warning signs, Briggs was not placed on a special monitoring schedule used for suicidal patients.

Shortly after the suicide attempt, guard personnel indicated they had been checking on Briggs every 15 minutes. An investigation however, revealed that prior to her suicide attempt, there had been a gap of 42 minutes between wellness checks.

Multiple other lawsuits are pending against the Copper Lake. The Wisconsin legislature recently passed legislation calling for the closing of the facility.