Graham Kilmer
MKE County

County Ready For New Youth Correction Facility

With state funding approved, county officials are ready to build facility.

By - Sep 7th, 2022 03:20 pm
Milwaukee County SRCCCY Rendering.

Milwaukee County SRCCCY Rendering.

Milwaukee County is essentially ready to build a secure detention center for youth now that the state has followed through on legislation it passed four years ago.

In August, the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved $13.1 million in funding for the expansion and renovation of the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center. These funds, on top of the $15.2 million already appropriated for the county in 2020, brings the state funding to $28.3 million. The county estimates the total project cost at approximately $30 million.

The county is planning a new, 32-bed facility within the Vel Phillips Center, which currently has 127 beds. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) officials told a county board committee Wednesday that the facility will be used for the Milwaukee County Accountability Program (MCAP) that has been operating on a smaller scale for several years. MCAP involves behavioral intervention and shorter periods of incarceration.  The new project will add eight beds to this program, which regularly has a waitlist.

The entire project is intended to help the county achieve its goal of keeping children sentenced to incarceration close to home and to eventually have zero county youth in state-run prisons. There are currently 29 youth in state-run facilities, but this number fluctuates up and down. At the end of August, there were 47 youth in state facilities. The county budgeted to send fewer children to state facilities in 2022 than it is currently averaging. This, combined with a hike in the amount the state charges counties to incarcerate the children, is causing a budget deficit for DHHS that has the potential to put the county’s whole budget in a deficit by the end of the year.

In 2018, the state passed 2017 Wisconsin Act 185, which was intended to reform the state’s juvenile corrections system. The legislation was a response to the failures under the administration of Gov. Scott Walker that led to poor conditions, allegations of abuse and an FBI investigation that became public when the agency raided the youth prisons.

The legislation directed the state to construct a new Type 1 facility to house juveniles convicted of serious and violent crimes, the expansion of the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center and a new constellation of smaller youth detentions facilities that would be operated by counties and allow youth incarcerated for crimes not requiring Type 1 detention to serve their sentence closer to home.

Four counties submitted plans for these facilities, called Secure Residential Care Centers for Children and Youth (SRCCCY): Milwaukee, Racine, Dane and Brown. Only Racine and Milwaukee are still moving forward with SRCCCY projects. The state finally began to make significant advances on the Mendota expansion, breaking ground in March, and selected a site for the new Type 1 facility in August.

The state recently selected a site in Milwaukee for it’s new Type 1 facility for serious juvenile offenders; a 6.6 acre site on the northwest side of Milwaukee at 7930 W. Clinton Ave. The facility will be smaller than the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons. Getting the site approved was integral to moving the other pieces of the plan, specifically the SRCCCYs, forward. “Getting the Type 1 facility approved in Milwaukee was a major step,” said State Rep. Evan Goyke.

The additional funding approved for the county SRCCCY was critical to the county moving forward on the project. County Executive David Crowley deferred acceptance of the initial $13.1 million from the state until there was action taken on the new Type 1 facility and sustainable funding for the county facility was on the table.

The 32-bed facility built at Vel R. Phillips will follow the approach of the existing MCAP program, which provides a sentencing alternative to incarceration involving a 180-day stay in a correction facility with “intensive supervision, advocacy, structure, support, and skill-building opportunities” followed by a transition to at-home supervision, case management and behavioral intervention for the young person and their family.

The project will see the two existing MCAP pods renovated. Education facilities and programming will be expanded, with “classrooms, teacher support and offices, a computer/learning lab, vocational programming, testing/consultation, and other multi-media activities,” according to a recent DHHS report. Other features will include new recreation space indoors and outdoors as well as greenspace; space for health, dental and mental health care; a new welcome center and space for family visitation.

Categories: MKE County, Weekly

One thought on “MKE County: County Ready For New Youth Correction Facility”

  1. Mingus says:

    I have never understood why the Youth Corrections facility at Wales, Wisconsin in Waukesha County was closed. Besides the atrocities that the inmates had to deal with which resulted in lawsuits, $25,000,000 has been paid out by the State of Wisconsin to settle these lawsuits. $25,000,000 could have been spent on creating a state of the art facility in a location close to families of residents and a large pool of potential employees. Republicans like to “reform” most any aspect of State Government but never take responsibility for the predictable catastrophic consequences.

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