Evers Proposes Delay Of Youth Prison Closure
Proposal would also stop the practice of 17-year-olds being tried as adults.
The closure of the state’s embattled youth prison would be indefinitely delayed under a new proposal from Gov. Tony Evers.
Under the governor’s plan, closure of the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls would be delayed until whenever new, regional facilities are developed to house the inmates.
“I’ve said all along that criminal justice reform is an area where Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together,” Evers said in a prepared statement. “That starts with our juvenile justice system and making sure that our kids are safe and have a chance to be rehabilitated so they can get back into our communities and be successful.”
Evers’ plan also includes a roughly $200 million increase in state funding for building new regional youth prisons and expanding an existing facility in Madison.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, the chair of the Senate’s public safety committee, has been critical of a possible timeline change, and on Wednesday he voiced his opposition to Evers’ proposal.
“There’s a sense of urgency here,” he said, citing challenges with staffing, programming and safety at the facilities. “It’s about getting these young people into an environment where they can be housed safely, they can get good programming, and where we have a safe place for our staff who staff this.”
Wanggard said the governor’s plan is “unacceptable.”
“My perspective is, if something happens (at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake), the governor is going to own this,” he said.
An attorney in a case challenging living conditions at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake also expressed concern on Wednesday.
“While there have been improvements made, we still have real safety concerns about our clients and about the young people in Wisconsin in general who are at risk of being placed there,” said Karen Lindell, senior attorney at Juvenile Law Center.
The governor’s proposal would also make changes to who can be criminally tried and charged as an adult in Wisconsin.
According to the Evers’ administration, Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that allows 17-year-olds to be tried as adults. The governor’s plan would increase the age for charging juveniles as adults from 17 to 18. That transition would begin in 2021.
Democratic state Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, lauded the proposal, calling Wisconsin an “outlier” for its “outdated” policy.
“Seventeen-year-olds are not adults and shouldn’t be in the adult criminal justice and adult prison systems,” Goyke said.
The governor’s plan will be rolled out as part of his state budget, which will be presented Thursday night before the Legislature.
Listen to the WPR report here.
Evers Proposes Delay Of Youth Prison Closure, Change To Juvenile Charges was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
- Evers Proposes $45.8 Million for Milwaukee Juvenile Facility - Gretchen Schuldt - Mar 1st, 2021
- MKE County: County Has Just 22 Inmates in Youth Prisons - Edgar Mendez - Feb 24th, 2021
- Evers Pushes Juvenile Justice System Changes - Corri Hess - Feb 18th, 2021
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Calls for Transformation of the Wisconsin Youth Justice System as the State Acknowledges it Will Not Meet the July 2021 Deadline to Close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Prisons - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Feb 8th, 2021
- Pandemic Causes Youth Prison Problems - Graham Kilmer - Jan 27th, 2021
- Can State Rescue Youth Corrections Plan? - Graham Kilmer - Jan 11th, 2021
- State Can’t Meet Deadline to Close Youth Prisons - Graham Kilmer - Dec 30th, 2020
- MKE County: Crowley Defers Youth Corrections Grant Until State Has Sustainable Plan - Graham Kilmer - Sep 16th, 2020
- State Blows Up County Youth Corrections Plan - Graham Kilmer - May 20th, 2020
- Youth Advocates Remain Committed to Closing Wisconsin Youth Prisons Following Monitor’s Report - American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin - Mar 5th, 2020
Read more about Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake here