Graham Kilmer
MKE County

County Seeks Contractors for Youth Detention Center

A $31 million project to create addition to Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center.

By - Apr 23rd, 2024 09:27 am
Ground level conceptual design for the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center. Design from Milwaukee County.

Ground level conceptual design for the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center. Design from Milwaukee County.

Milwaukee County is looking for contractors to build out an addition and make renovations to the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center.

The $31.3 million project is part of a larger statewide effort to close the troubled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons, which are run by the state. Most of the funding, $28.3 million, comes from the state and is the result of state legislative attempts to reform the state’s juvenile justice facilities by closing the two troubled youth prisons.

Expanding and renovating the county’s detention center at 10201 W. Watertown Plank Rd. will allow circuit court judges to keep children convicted of crimes, and sentenced to a period of incarceration, in Milwaukee County. The county’s Division of Children, Youth and Family Services, which operates the youth detention center, has a goal to eventually have zero Milwaukee youth in state-run prisons.

The county plans to build a two-story, 27,000-square-foot addition to the facility, according to documents published by the county for potential contractors, as well as 1,800 square feet of recreational space. Another 8,800 square feet of existing space will be renovated.

The renovation work will redo and expand the space used for a county-run program that offers an alternative for the courts to sentencing children to Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake. Called the Milwaukee County Accountability Program (MCAP), it involves a shorter period of incarceration and features behavioral therapy and education aimed at treating the root causes of the criminal behavior that landed a youth in the criminal justice system.

Initially, MCAP was going to be expanded from 24 to 32 beds. But the number is now higher. The documents for potential construction contractors say, “The completed facility is expected to house up to (50) youth.”

The two-story addition will add a “Welcome Center, Administration, Admissions & Release, Security & Control, Health Center & Behavioral, Visitation, Food Services, Interior and Exterior Recreation, Education, Housing, and Secured Perimeter to the campus.”

The county originally planned to have the new facility built and operating by the beginning of 2025. It will begin reviewing bids for work ranging from carpentry to fireproofing in May.

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