Evers Announces Milwaukee Site For Lincoln Hills Replacement
Replacement for troubled youth justice facility would be on city's northwest side.
Governor Tony Evers announced an agreement Tuesday to build a new youth justice facility on Milwaukee’s Far Northwest Side, replacing the troubled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake facilities in northern Wisconsin.
The need to replace the “Type 1” justice facilities became headline news when a law enforcement raid of the facilities in 2015 revealed that a federal probe into conditions at the facilities was underway. The Wisconsin State Legislature approved a replacement framework in 2018, but has yet to provide full funding to move those plans forward.
“Despite delays in funding and continued obstruction over the past three years, we’ve been adamant that Wisconsin needs to move as quickly as possible to build a new Type 1 juvenile facility in Southeast Wisconsin so we can close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake and get our kids closer to home as soon as we safely and responsibly can,” said Evers in a press release. “Today’s important announcement means we are one major step closer to getting kids out of these facilities, and we are incredibly grateful that the city of Milwaukee recognizes the importance of moving forward to do just that.”
The new Milwaukee site is currently owned by an affiliate of Poblocki Paving, but Evers announced that the Department of Administration has reached an agreement to purchase the property. It contains an approximately 20,000-square-foot warehouse currently and is assessed for $537,900.
Evers signed a bipartisan proposal into law in April that provides $41.8 million to build the replacement. The state has already paid more than $25 million in legal fees and settlements as a result of the conditions at the existing facilities.
The Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls are both located in Irma, between Wausau and Tomahawk. In addition to the three-hour drive from Milwaukee, local officials have had to deal with rising costs of incarcerating youth at the facility. At the current rate, it costs Milwaukee County $420,000 per year to have a young person incarcerated at the facility because a number of other counties no longer send youth there and the population has dropped.
According to a Department of Corrections report, the facilities have a combined capacity of 548 inmates, but only 78 inmates are currently incarcerated in Irma. The Type 1 facilities are designed for the most serious youth offenders.
The new site is located in the ninth aldermanic district, which currently has no local representative following Chantia Lewis‘ felony plea agreement for campaign finance violations.
The Common Council is expected to hold a special meeting Friday to approve the first step in its approval process.
“The city of Milwaukee recognizes the incredible importance of not allowing delays in this project and the end goal of bringing kids closer to home,” said Common Council President Jose G. Perez in a statement. “This week, the Common Council will be taking up a resolution to satisfy the site selection support requirement in 2021 Act 252, which is only the first step to initiate this long-term process. The Common Council looks forward to additional public engagement as the project moves through the next state and city processes.”
State legislators from Milwaukee also praised the announcement.
“I’ve been working on this issue and calling for something to be done about Lincoln Hills for years,” said Senator Lena Taylor. “Today, Gov. Evers’ announcement brings us a step closer to improving the way we provide juvenile corrections in Wisconsin. While all impacted youth may not be from the 4th Senate District, we are uniquely positioned to house this facility. We can bring these youth closer to home and provide them the rehabilitative services they need.”
“I’m glad to see the Evers Administration has taken community feedback into account, and we have worked together to find a site for this new facility on West Clinton Avenue that works for the whole community,” said Representative LaKeshia Myers (D-Milwaukee). “This is the first of several steps that will bring Milwaukee children back to their home communities.”
“I look forward to the community conversations and work ahead of us to ensure this new facility comes to this site on West Clinton Avenue, in what will be the new 11th Assembly District, so justice-involved youth can get all the resources and services our community has to offer, and the supports needed to be successful upon release,” said Rep. Dora Drake.
“Ever since we passed Act 185 in 2018, we’ve been working to close Lincoln Hills and get these kids closer to home because we know that’s where they’ll have the best chance at getting the help they need to get back on track,” said Rep. Evan Goyke. “Despite numerous setbacks from some of my colleagues in the Legislature, Gov. Evers has led the way forward, and he’s never wavered in his commitment to doing the right thing for these kids and for our state. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to get to this point, and excited to keep making progress toward our vision for a better, safer model for juvenile justice.”
Future steps for the proposal include city zoning approvals, which are not included in Friday’s special meeting, a state-led public listening session and further state committee approvals to release the funding.
- Some Progress, Still Problems at Lincoln Hills - Isiah Holmes - Jul 9th, 2023
- Plats and Parcels: Republicans Approve Gov. Evers’ Allocation of $32.6 Million More To Build Milwaukee Youth Prison - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 4th, 2023
- Milwaukee Youth Prison Costs Grow 71% - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 1st, 2023
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Approves New Youth Prison in Milwaukee - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 17th, 2023
- Eyes on Milwaukee: New Youth Prison Wins Key Endorsement - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 10th, 2023
- Eyes on Milwaukee: New Youth Prison Gains Plan Commission Approval - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 12th, 2022
- Problems, Staffing Shortages Still Plague Lincoln Hills - Isiah Holmes - Dec 10th, 2022
- MKE County: County Hits 4-Year High of Youth in State Prisons - Graham Kilmer - Nov 28th, 2022
- Youth Correctional Facility Faces Obstacles - Edgar Mendez - Nov 12th, 2022
- MKE County: Vote Could Send More Youth to Lincoln Hills - Graham Kilmer - Sep 22nd, 2022
Read more about Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Facilities here