Walker Signs Law Closing Lincoln Hills Youth Prison

New Law Will Begin Massive Reorganization Of State Juvenile Justice System

Scott Walker bill signing
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signs a bill in June 2015. Jeffrey Phelps/AP Photo

Gov. Scott Walker on Friday signed a new law that authorizes the closure of the state’s embattled youth prison and sets in motion a massive reorganization of the state’s juvenile justice system.

Under the new law, the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prison will close by January 2021. That facility, which has been plagued for years by allegations of inmate abuse and neglect, will be replaced by a mix of smaller state- and county-run institutions.

“We are committed to improving long-term outcomes for juveniles and staff in our correctional facilities,” Walker said in a prepared statement.

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Now that the bill is signed, a pair of committees will convene to lay the groundwork for those new institutions.

“We need to do that background homework to make sure that our new creation is governed appropriately, built based on evidence-based practices,” said Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, one of the architects of the plan.

The committees will be made up representatives from a number of groups, including law enforcement, national experts on corrections, and formerly incarcerated individuals.

“And so we have a very diverse set of voices that will work together to find compromise,” Goyke said.

According to Goyke, the committees are expected to work for about a year before locations are selected for the new youth prisons.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated with original reporting from WPR at 5:00 p.m. on March 30, 2018.