By Todd Richmond
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s new prisons secretary moved within a step of being confirmed in his new position Wednesday after a legislative committee overwhelmingly recommended the state Senate sign off on his appointment.
The Senate’s judiciary committee voted 5-0 to recommend the full body confirm Jon Litscher as the Department of Corrections new leader. Sen. Lena Taylor, a Milwaukee Democrat, said she is cautiously optimistic Litscher can help the troubled agency regain its footing amid an embarrassing federal investigation into abuse allegations at the state’s remote youth prison.
“I have found him to be transparent so far,” Taylor said. “He’s been able to answer the hard questions.”
Litscher served as Corrections secretary from 1999 to 2003 under Republican Govs. Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum. He has most recently worked as a schools superintendent in Cambria.
Gov. Scott Walker appointed Litscher last month to replace Ed Wall, who resigned Feb. 5 amid an investigation into abuse claims at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls, the state’s joint youth prison in Irma, about 30 miles north of Wausau. Federal authorities are investigating claims of sexual assault, misconduct in public office and civil rights violations at the facility.
Litscher’s first day on the job was Feb. 29. He told the judiciary committee during a hearing on his confirmation last week that he must restore the public’s confidence in the agency and plans to reduce forced overtime at state institutions to boost staff morale. He also said he wants to find money for buses to carry Milwaukee parents to visit their children in Irma.
Wednesday’s committee vote clears the way for the full Senate to take a confirmation vote on Litscher. The body is expected to convene Tuesday for what could be its last floor period of the two-year legislative session. A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald didn’t immediately respond to an email asking whether the confirmation would be on the agenda.