Sunday, 20 May, 2018


"A long time coming:" Announcement to close Lincoln Hills gets bipartisan support

Noah Ferguson | 13 January, 2018, 15:48

Just a day after announcing changes to youth prisons in Wisconsin, Governor Walker is revealing details about his reorganization plan.

Along with the physical changes in the plan comes a renewed focus on mental health treatment due to the severe trauma most of these juveniles have faced.

On Thursday, Gov. Walker announced that beginning in 2019, the state would begin to move in that direction. An expanded mental health facility to house female prisoners would also be built in Madison.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the governor wants to implement the changes in a "thoughtful and purposeful way" but would support moving more quickly if the Legislature wanted to do so this year. The plan calls for legislative approval in 2019, but Walker says he's open to moving faster. "Republicans and Democrats alike agree this is the way forward to reform juvenile corrections, and I thank state and local elected officials and interested organizations for partnering with us to develop this plan".

The Lincoln Hills facility, once converted, will provide 500-600 new medium security beds and alleviate some of the county jail beds that have been used in the meantime. 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.

-Would require the Department of Corrections to move juveniles at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools into five new "type one" juvenile correctional facilities and one new juvenile mental health facility.

The goal of the plan is similar to the juvenile correctional model in Missouri - recently profiled by the Wisconsin State Journal - that is hailed by juvenile justice experts.

State Superintendent Tony Evers, who is running against Walker for governor and has made the troubles at Lincoln Hills central to his argument to unseat Walker, said Walker's plan doesn't wash away the years of problems at the facility. "We need responsible leaders who are more focused about solving problems and protecting lives than winning elections". "I don't think all of us have heard all of the issues Lincoln Hills-Copper Lake were having".

"We want to make sure these, call them institutions, are small and therapeutic and they need to be located where the need is the greatest", Moore said.

"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.

"At least we know what it takes for Gov".

"I'm hoping the facilities are built on redirection", said Roberson.

In December 2015, dozens of state investigators arrived at Lincoln Hills to interview staff as part of a secret John Doe investigation of child neglect, tampering with public documents, intimidation of victims, use of pepper spray to cause bodily harm and intimidation of witnesses.

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