State Building Commission approves funding for juvenile correctional facilities in southern Wisconsin
For the MERRILL FOTO NEWS
WISCONSIN – Governor Tony Evers, on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023, announced the Wisconsin State Building Commission approved a total of approximately $341.8 million in key projects across the state.
Among the projects approved by the Commission are the construction of a Type 1 Juvenile Correctional Facility in Milwaukee County and the planning and development of a second Type 1 facility in Dane County.
A release from Evers’ office said the new facilities will “enable more youth to be located closer to their homes and move the state forward in being able to close the outdated Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls located outside Irma.”
“The focus on smaller juvenile correctional facilities over larger conventional facilities will foster increased family engagement, interaction with mentors, and access to treatment programs, providing a more supportive environment for youth rehabilitation,” the release stated.
The State of Wisconsin has sought for years to close the Irma facility amid allegations of abuse brought by inmates and staff, investigations into civil rights violations, and the use of excessive force and a number of lawsuits that cost the state millions of dollars in legal settlements.
State legislators in 2018 voted to close the youth detention center and replace it with a total of six regional state- and county-run facilities. Governor Evers later signed into law a July 1, 2021, deadline to shutter the facility, but the state ultimately did not meet the deadline after Legislative Republicans rejected plans to fund the state-run facilities.
In April 2022, Evers signed Senate Bill 520, which allocated roughly $42 million to the construction of a facility designated to replace Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake. The bill received bipartisan support in the State Legislature.
Under the legislation, the Irma facility will be repurposed as an adult correctional institution.
City of Milwaukee officials in January approved the site where the new Milwaukee County juvenile detention center will be constructed.