Juvenile Prison Costs Are Skyrocketing
Up 250% to $812,252 per juvenile last year at Copper Lake, up 41% at Lincoln Hills.
If Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republicans who control the Legislature need one more reason to finally work out a statewide plan to house and treat juvenile criminals, here’s one: A new state report says it cost an average of $812,252 last year – or $2,225 per day – to care for each female juvenile at the Copper Lake School in Lincoln County.
That average cost jumped 250% in a year, as the average daily population at the school dropped from 16 to less than 6.
Evers and legislators had promised to close both schools by now, but that didn’t happen. Plans for new state and regional facilities to care for juvenile criminals have not been approved, as legislators, Evers and county officials fight over their costs.
The latest estimate of what it costs to care for adult and juvenile offenders in Wisconsin prisons, and costs to monitor those on probation and parole, were detailed in in an annual report from the state Department of Administration (DOA).
DOA said it cost an average of $44,038 to house and treat 20,519 inmates in adult prisons in the year that ended on June 30. That was a 21% increase from the average cost of $36,170 to house 23,633 adult inmates the previous year.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the number of adult inmates to drop. The pandemic raised annual inmate costs because prisons stay open and staffed 24 hours a day.
DOA’s report said the average cost to confine adult inmates last year ranged from a high of $78,948 at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, where the average population fell from 954 to 573, to $35,090 at the Stanley prison in Chippewa County.
Other average annual costs last year to confine an adult inmate in the largest prisons were:
-Women: At Taycheedah, $50,391.
-Men: Boscobel, $58,912; Columbia, $51,341; Dodge, $46,790; Waupun, $46,288; Green Bay, $44,850; Fox Lake, $37,621; Racine, $37,748; Kettle Moraine, $36,649, and Oshkosh, $36,113.
A third juvenile detention facility, in Racine, cost an average of $62,869 per inmate last year. Its average daily population dropped from 447 to 345 in a year.
DOA’s report said the average cost to monitor someone on supervised release last year was $3,349.
When he ran for governor in 2018, Evers supported the goal of closing prisons and trying to cut the prison population by 50% — a decrease Republicans said would threaten public safety.
“We know our justice system has put a strain on our state,” Ever said in his budget message. “Our prisons have been overcrowded, which costs more of your tax dollars. We can’t keep throwing your taxpayer dollars into a system that doesn’t help our state or our people thrive—it’s holding us back… We can keep our communities safe by holding violent offenders accountable, save money, and reform our justice system all at the same time.”
Typical of the Capitol impasse on criminal justice reform was a bill, passed by Republicans, requiring the return to prison of anyone on probation or parole who was charged with another crime. Evers vetoed that bill.
Sen. Julian Bradley was one of the Republicans who criticized that veto.
“I’m in favor of second chances, but we must ensure those who have already broken our laws aren’t getting opportunity after opportunity to wreak havoc,” Bradley said. “The system isn’t working, and we must ensure our laws put the safety of our families and communities first.”