Milwaukee County Deems Lincoln Hills In State Of Emergency

County Supervisors Approve $500K To Seek Alternative Housing For Youth Prisoners

Glen Moberg/WPR

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said he’s working with county criminal justice officials on a long-term plan to move juvenile offenders from Milwaukee out of the youth prison in Irma.

Milwaukee County supervisors have declared a state of emergency at the Lincoln Hills School. A state and federal investigation into staff abuse of inmates there continues. The county board approved allocating $500,000 to find alternative housing closer to Milwaukee. County Executive Abele said he’s seeking funds to hire a team of social workers to help the Department of Corrections improve programming at the schools and ensure the safety of the youth held there.

“As soon as possible I want county staff and case workers to be able, as close to now as possible, to be up at Lincoln Hills to ensure and sort of oversee the best care for the kids that we have up there,” he said.

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Abele said the county won’t move any youth until a new facility is available to provide better care.

Abele said it’s important to find a new location soon because there is a backlog of cases building as county judges are increasingly reluctant to send young offenders to the center in Irma.

He said Corrections Secretary Ed Wall has acknowledged the school’s location in northern Wisconsin is not the best place to hold the largely African-American youth from Milwaukee who make up the majority of the inmates.

“It’s always going to be as it is right now likely all white staff who don’t look like the folks that they’re working with,” said Abele. “It’s always going to be harder for them to hire staff, and it will always be next to impossible for the parents of a lot of these kids to take a whole day, seven hours of driving to visit.”

Abele said he’s also concerned about the school’s 65 percent recidivism rate. Long-term he’d like the state to follow the Missouri Model and build several smaller detention centers in several different regions of the state, so young offenders can be held closer to the communities where their families live.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story featuring Associated Press content has been updated with original reporting.