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Walker: State Could Fund New Youth Prison In Milwaukee County

Officials Seek Alternative Facility To Troubled Lincoln Hills School

Gov. Scott Walker at a press conference
Gateway Technical College (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Gov. Scott Walker says he’s open to having the state help pay for a new juvenile corrections center in Milwaukee County.

The state’s two secure juvenile facilities share a campus north of Wausau. Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls have been under criminal investigation for allegations of prisoner abuse and child neglect.

Milwaukee’s youth offenders housed at the troubled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile detention centers are more than 200 miles from home.

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Milwaukee County officials want to keep juvenile offenders closer to home which would make it easier for families to visit.

Chris Abele is the county executive. He said a new facility in the county wouldn’t lead to extra costs.

“Taxpayers and citizens should know transitioning a facility from Lincoln Hills down to here is not going to come with a big additional tax levy cost at the county,” Abele said. “We’re already paying for the kids, in fact we could probably do it more efficiently here.”

Abele said the county pays about $300 a day for each minor living at the facility near Wausau.

The Journal Sentinel reports the Republican governor said the county would be responsible for the cost of operating a new facility. Counties receive state aid to help pay for the cost of juvenile corrections.

Abele said a new correction center would not only be cheaper but could also help reduce recidivism rates by housing more serious offenders separately and offering more job training and education programs

Any state funding for a new juvenile center would need support from Republicans who control the state Legislature.

Abele said having a youth correction facility in the county would be ideal. But the management responsibilities have yet to be determined.

“We’ve talked to the state about different models of management here and it’s not certain yet on who would do the day to day managing,” Abele said. “But I will say there’s no scenario in which the sheriff would be managing it.”

The Milwaukee County Jail is run by the sheriff’s office. Four people, including an infant, have died at the jail since April.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include original reporting from WPR.