Major Changes for Troubled Youth Prison

Scott Walker

In Northeast Wisconsin on Friday, Governor Scott Walker talked about his proposal to close the Lincoln Hills-Copper Lake youth prison complex. Gov. This includes expanding the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center. Democrats also were quick to note that the plan, which is subject to approval by the Republican-controlled Legislature, wouldn't be implemented until after voters decide whether to re-elect the Republican governor this fall.

Lee said he spoke with staffers from the governor's office about the plan on Thursday before it was publicly announced.

"It's essential that we find a workable solution that will bring about better outcomes for juvenile offenders, their families and their communities", Vos said.

Walker noted the plan was developed in consultation with leaders of his administration, state lawmakers, judges and local officials. "For years, he's done nothing".

"I called for Gov. Walker: we won't forget his behavior".

"Something had to be done", Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer said Thursday.

"It's going to leave us with the same problem", he said.

Problems at the juvenile prisons have been developing for years. "We must focus on how we can work with Wisconsin counties in order to make the system more effective and accountable for juvenile offenders without putting undue burden on state taxpayers". Investigations showed the facilities improperly trained staff, did not preserve video evidence, failed to document serious incidents and often failed to report incidents to parents and police, according to reports by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

No one has been charged.

A federal judge ordered past year that the use of solitary confinement, shackles, and pepper spray be drastically reduced at the facility, which is roughly 20 miles north of Wausau.

While some Democrats question the timing of the governor's announcement, they are happy to move forward - but they want to see changes immediately.

Democratic critics say Walker isn't acting quickly enough. His plan doesn't call for opening the new regional prisons until 2019 at the earliest.

Up to three new prisons would be in southeastern Wisconsin near Milwaukee, though the sites have not yet been chosen.

Under Walker's proposal, the state would borrow $80 million to build five regional youth correctional institutions. "The smaller the clientele, the more directed services can be", which hopefully will reduce the rate of recidivism among youth. "In terms of specific siting, other than Mendota which has to be there in Madison and other than one being by law in the northern part of the state, the rest we've worked with the county's association on this plan and we'll work with them on siting", said Gov.

One lawsuit filed since the investigation began is a class-action suit from former and current inmates represented by the American Civil Liberties Union-Wisconsin and the Juvenile Law Center. They won't hire the people.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, a Democrat, also supported the plan.

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