Walker Says He'll Shutter Embattled Juvenile Prisons in Northern Wisconsin

Plan calls for spending $80M on five new juvenile prisons

A medium-security prison would need a larger workforce, Lee said, and workers now employed at Lincoln Hills would be given the option to work at the adult facility.

Walker said Thursday he plans instead to build six smaller youth facilities around the state for Wisconsin's most serious juvenile offenders, including one new mental health facility in Madison for girls.

On Thursday, Gov. Walker announced that beginning in 2019, the state would begin to move in that direction.

State statute requires one to be in the northern part of Wisconsin, and space at Mendota Mental Health Institute near Madison would be utilized for the all-female facility and mental health housing.

Scott Walker's plan to move juvenile inmates out of a facility under federal investigation wouldn't be implemented until after voters decide whether to re-elect him this fall.

Transition the existing facility at LHS/CLS to a medium-security adult correctional facility with the cooperation of Lincoln County.

Before state and federal raids on the facility in December 2015, staff also regularly physically abused youth in the facility, even breaking their arms and legs in some cases, according to the ACLU.

DOC Secretary Jon Litscher, who took over the department in 2016 after almost all DOC officials who oversaw juvenile corrections quit or were fired, said in a statement the plan will "build on the many reforms" put in place since he took over.

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They say bills already introduced could be used to implement Walker's plan and be passed by the Legislature this year.

State Representative Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), one of several Democratic candidates for governor looking to challenge Walker in November, argued the governor has had the "opportunity to do the right thing time and time again, but he only caved after the pressure became too much". Workers say conditions started to deteriorate more rapidly in 2011, when two juvenile prisons near Milwaukee were closed and teens were consolidated at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, located about 30 miles north of Wausau.

Wanggaard said there will likely be discussions with officials in the counties in southeastern Wisconsin to determine the best places for the facilities. "As governor, he has failed to visit a single correctional or juvenile facility in his entire tenure. We need responsible leaders who are more focused about solving problems and protecting lives than winning elections".

"It was a planning as to get where we are today with Lincoln Hills/Copper Lakes as far as for the treatment and educational emphasis and providing treatment staff, and the next step in that development and ongoing improvement will be to match those type of improvements to smaller, community-based, organizational sites found within the community of need", Litscher said.

We are relieved that the state is moving away from a model that just doesn't work - large youth prisons that violate the Constitution and are risky to youth.

"I'm hoping the facilities are built on redirection", said Roberson.

But Doug Curtis - a former Lincoln Hills staff member - disagrees.

"We would love for that to be possible but we don't know that yet", Delagrave said.


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