What’s Happening With State’s Youth Prisons?
Three key developments affecting Wisconsin’s troubled youth correctional facilities.
A lot has happened in the last few days affecting the future of Milwaukee’s youths in the justice system.
As local and state leaders get closer to figuring out what will replace the state’s troubled youth prisons, Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, these are the three things you need to know right now:
1. The timeline for closing Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake is officially pushed back to July 2021.
On Friday, Gov. Tony Evers signed a follow-up bill to Act 185, the law that would close the youth prisons and replace them with smaller regional facilities run by individual counties and the state. If you want more background information on Act 185, check out this explainer piece.
Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), a co-sponsor on the new bill, said the point is to clarify parts of the original act. It does not make substantial changes to the plan itself, other than the timeline.
The new law gives the state Juvenile Corrections Grant Committee until Oct. 1, 2019, to make recommendations on what county projects should be funded.
In addition to the delayed timeline, the budget has changed with the new Evers administration. The grant committee now has $80 million to work with to fund counties’ proposals for regional facilities, which doubled from the original $40 million in Act 185.
The budget also allocates $43.9 million to the Department of Health Services to significantly expand Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center, a mental health institution that is also a high security correctional placement for youths.
The Joint Committee on Finance did not approve funding for new state-run facilities for youths with the most serious offenses. It is yet to be decided what these facilities will be and how they will be funded.
2. The third court-ordered report on the conditions at Lincoln Hills was released Monday, and it shows that there have been some major improvements at the prison.
The report said there was significant improvement in youth and staff wellness, as well as in the conditions of the facility itself, but it still found that rooms were not “suicide resistant.”
The July report stated there has been “significant progress made in improving the quality of life for youth and staff” since the last report in April, noting positive staff and youth relationships and increased recreation.
It found that pepper spray and mechanical restraints were still being used in the facility, and youths were being punitively confined in their rooms, but at a much lower rate.
This overall positive review stands in contrast to past reports. It comes in light of the state recently reaching an almost $5 million settlement with three former youths who alleged they had been abused at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake.
3. Milwaukee County proposed a local plan to replace Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake that does not involve building any new facilities.
On Monday, Milwaukee County submitted a new $41.8 million proposal to the state for its local piece of the plans to replace the youth prisons.
It submitted an earlier version in March, but this plan is significantly different. Namely, it doesn’t include building any new facilities but rather suggests renovations and new programs.
County leaders and local advocates have consistently been critical of the state’s plans to replace Lincoln Hills. They say the suggested smaller regional facilities are too similar to the youth prison model that has proven to be ineffective, yielding high recidivism rates of more than 70% and costing more than $144,000 a year to incarcerate one young person in Wisconsin.
“It wouldn’t be a wise use of our resources or taxes or an effective means of getting good outcomes by sticking with just building a building,” said Mary Jo Meyers, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services.
The new proposal includes a renovation to the Vel R. Phillips Youth Detention Center and a collaboration with and renovation of existing residential facilities in the county through partnerships with “community partners” that haven’t been identified yet.
The rest of the requested funding would be dedicated to investing in personnel and staff training, as well as creating more programs to serve as alternatives to incarceration, such as mentoring programs.
Meyers said the reason for changing the proposal from building a new facility is to give greater flexibility to tailor the programming to changing needs, especially as the youth arrest rate continues to decline.
Milwaukee’s requests fall out of the original parameters of Act 185, so it’s still unknown if it will receive state funding.
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
More about the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake
- Milwaukee County Wants Alternatives to Youth Incarceration - Sam Woods - Feb 22nd, 2020
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: Wisconsin is at a Turning Point in Youth Justice - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Feb 13th, 2020
- GOP Underfunds Youth Corrections Plan - Laurel White - Feb 13th, 2020
- Op Ed: Will Lincoln Hills Ever Be Closed? - State Sen. Jeff Smith - Dec 10th, 2019
- Special Report: New York’s After Care Program Helps Youth - Allison Dikanovic - Sep 17th, 2019
- MKE County: Youth Corrections Proposal Sent To State - Graham Kilmer - Sep 11th, 2019
- Special Report: Building Trust Can Help Juvenile Offenders - Allison Dikanovic - Sep 11th, 2019
- Special Report: How New York Handles Juvenile Justice - Allison Dikanovic - Sep 10th, 2019
- County Proposal Replaces Youth Prison - Corri Hess - Jul 18th, 2019
- What’s Happening With State’s Youth Prisons? - Allison Dikanovic - Jul 4th, 2019
- Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and The Department of Health and Human Services Announce New Approach for Youth Justice Reform - County Executive Chris Abele - Jul 1st, 2019
- Gov. Evers Signs Act 185 Trailer Bill - Gov. Tony Evers - Jul 1st, 2019
- Senator Taylor Pushes Juvenile Corrections Reform - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Jun 12th, 2019
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: Wisconsin Must Include Community Input for Any Youth Transfers - Youth Justice Milwaukee - May 10th, 2019
- County Opposes Plan to Replace Lincoln Hills - Allison Dikanovic - May 7th, 2019
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: Lincoln Hills Continued Use of Pepper Spray, Suicide Risk Shows Youth Prison Model is Broken - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Apr 19th, 2019
- County Submits Youth Prison Proposal - Corri Hess - Mar 30th, 2019
- 6 Things to Know About Lincoln Hills - Allison Dikanovic - Mar 22nd, 2019
- Evers Announces Youth Prison for City - Laurel White - Mar 13th, 2019
- Gov. Evers Moves Forward on Plans to Close Lincoln Hills - Gov. Tony Evers - Mar 12th, 2019
- Evers Proposes Delay Of Youth Prison Closure - Laurel White - Feb 28th, 2019
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: We Must Move With a Sense of Urgency - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Feb 27th, 2019
- MKE County: County Officials Offer Antidote to Youth Prisons - Dave Fidlin - Feb 14th, 2019
- Delay in Closing Youth Prisons Criticized - Allison Dikanovic - Feb 4th, 2019
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: “We need action, not excuses.” - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Jan 30th, 2019
- County Picks Location for Youth Offender Facility - Allison Dikanovic - Jan 29th, 2019
- MKE County: County Prepares for Lincoln Hills Closing - Corri Hess - Jan 26th, 2019
- Problems Continue At State Youth Prisons - Laurel White - Jan 15th, 2019
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: Unacceptable Conditions Show We Can’t Wait for 2021 to Close Lincoln Hills - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Jan 14th, 2019
- State Rep. David Bowen Applauds New Governor Evers Visit to Lincoln Hills, Copper Lake - State Rep. David Bowen - Jan 14th, 2019
- Evers Will Visit Lincoln Hills - Shawn Johnson - Jan 3rd, 2019
- New Residential Treatment Facility Opens - Allison Dikanovic - Dec 19th, 2018
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Hosts Successful Roundtable with Elected Leaders on Youth Justice Reform - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Dec 12th, 2018
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Calls for More Community Input at Department of Corrections Community Meeting on Plans for Lincoln Hills Closure - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Sep 18th, 2018
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Statement on Judge’s OK to Lincoln Hills Settlement - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Sep 14th, 2018
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Statement on Lincoln Hills Incident with Young Person with Appendicitis - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Aug 31st, 2018
- Op Ed: Lincoln Hills Closed. Now What’s Needed? - Sharlen Moore - Aug 27th, 2018
- Wall Blasts Walker, Schimel on Youth Prison - Laurel White - Aug 13th, 2018
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: Department of Corrections Should Meet with Stakeholders in Milwaukee on Lincoln Hills - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Aug 8th, 2018
- Juvenile Corrections Reform Signed Into Law - State Rep. Evan Goyke - Apr 2nd, 2018
- Governor Walker Signs Bipartisan Juvenile Justice Reform Bill into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Mar 30th, 2018
- Speaker Vos Statement: Signing of the ‘Wisconsin Model’ for Juvenile Corrections Reform - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos - Mar 30th, 2018
- Shilling statement on Lincoln Hills - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Mar 30th, 2018
- Rep. Bowen statement on passage of Wisconsin Model of youth justice - State Rep. David Bowen - Feb 21st, 2018
- Kleefisch-Bowen bill lays foundation for youth corrections overhaul - State Rep. David Bowen - Feb 13th, 2018
- Taylor and Bipartisan Legislators Introduce Juvenile Corrections Bill - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Feb 13th, 2018
- Walker Renews Call to Gut Services - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Jan 18th, 2018
- Supervisor Sequanna Taylor Offers to Help Governor Walker with Plan to Close Lincoln Hill and Copper Lake - Sup. Sequanna Taylor - Jan 18th, 2018
- Statement on Delayed Action at Lincoln Hills - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Jan 16th, 2018
- Governor Walker Calls on Legislature to Pass Bipartisan Reform for Wisconsin’s Juvenile Corrections System in 2018 - Gov. Scott Walker - Jan 16th, 2018
- Response to Walker’s revisions last night on Lincoln Hills - Democratic Party of Wisconsin - Jan 16th, 2018
- Another Walker Non-Answer on Lincoln Hills Raises a Significant Question - Democratic Party of Wisconsin - Jan 12th, 2018
- When Will Lincoln Hills Close? - Democratic Party of Wisconsin - Jan 9th, 2018
- Shuttering of Lincoln Hills a first step in bringing true rehabilitation for youth offenders - Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton - Jan 5th, 2018
- Career Politician Gov. Scott Walker Governs For Re-Election With Campaign Gimmick - Andy Gronik - Jan 4th, 2018
- Changes Needed at Lincoln Hills Now, Not After the Next Election - State Sen. Chris Larson - Jan 4th, 2018
- Walker agrees to do his job after years of willful neglect and political cover up at Lincoln Hills — now when it threatens his own re-election - Democratic Party of Wisconsin - Jan 4th, 2018
- Walker a Day Late and Dollar Short on Juvenile Corrections - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Jan 4th, 2018
- Governor Walker Announces Plan to Provide a Long-Term Solution for Wisconsin’s Juvenile Corrections and Treatment Systems - Gov. Scott Walker - Jan 4th, 2018
- Dana Wachs calls on Walker administration to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake - State Rep. Dana Wachs - Nov 16th, 2017
- Op Ed: Lincoln Hills Even Worse Than Reported - Jake Edwards - Nov 16th, 2017
- Close Lincoln Hills: Advocates and Officials Reiterate Call for Closing Abusive Youth Prisons - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Nov 16th, 2017
- 2018 Budget Includes $90,000 for Youth Training Program - Sup. Sequanna Taylor - Nov 6th, 2017
- Rep. Bowen statement on DOC Internal Affairs Unit - State Rep. David Bowen - Oct 10th, 2017
- Sen. LaTonya Johnson’s Juvenile Justice Reform Signed Into Law - State Sen. LaTonya Johnson - Aug 2nd, 2017
- Court Watch: Judge Rules on Lincoln Hills - Gretchen Schuldt - Jul 13th, 2017
- Federal Court finds current conditions of confinement for youth at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools unconstitutional - American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin - Jun 23rd, 2017
- Court Watch: Pictures of Youths in Prison - Gretchen Schuldt - Jun 20th, 2017
- Abele Blasts State on Juvenile Prisons - Gretchen Schuldt - Apr 27th, 2017
- Court Watch: ACLU Seeks Lincoln Hills Injunction - Gretchen Schuldt - Apr 20th, 2017
- More Horrors at Juvenile Prisons? - Gretchen Schuldt - Apr 19th, 2017
- Court Watch: Chemical Spraying Used At Lincoln Hills - Gretchen Schuldt - Jan 27th, 2017
- Court Watch: Shocking Charges in Lincoln Hills Suit - Gretchen Schuldt - Jan 25th, 2017
- Corrections Officials Face Community on Lincoln Hills - Jabril Faraj - Jun 22nd, 2016
- Precious Lives: A Debate Over Lincoln Hills Problems - Dee J. Hall - May 24th, 2016
- Op-Ed: End Solitary Confinement, Especially of Youth - Laurence J. Dupuis - Feb 18th, 2016
- Murphy’s Law: Why Walker Allowed Lincoln Hills Abuses - Bruce Murphy - Feb 16th, 2016