Both the Wisconsin state senate and assembly have worked hard to bring the closure of the embattled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools into reality.
Now, with both houses having found some common ground with a plan to shut down the juvenile correctional facilities, there’s a sense of relief from some of the architects of the movement.
“Today the State Legislature has completed its work on meaningful reforms to our juvenile corrections system. I am honored to have worked closely with Rep. Schraa and the other bi- partisan authors on the crafting of the legislation and passage of this bill,” Rep. Goyke stated following the assembly vote.
Representative Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) agrees that the outcome of the bipartisan effort could have a lasting impact on justice reform.
“We aren’t just closing Lincoln Hills,” said Schraa. “We’re establishing a new way to deal with troubled youth. Juvenile offenders will be placed at state or county facilities based on the severity of their offense. The vision is to keep these youth closer to home, tied to community, and engaged in building positive life skills.”
The closing of the twin youth facilities at Copper Lake and Lincoln Hills comes on the heels of an $18.9 million cash settlement the state was forced to give the family of 16 year old Sydni Briggs, a young girl from Janesville, after she was left hanging in her cell at Copper Lake. Lincoln Hills has been the subject of an intense FBI investigation into an array of abuses, assaults and rights violations.
The plan now is to have those facilities shut down and for the majority of kids to be sent to county facilities which would then serve as residential centers. Only the most serious offenders would remain under state supervision.
Despite having passed both the assembly on Thursday and the Senate on Tuesday, the decision ultimately lands on the desk of Governor Scott Walker. Governor Walker earlier this year asked for the speedy closure of Lincoln Hills.