Gov. Scott Walker plans to close the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, the youth prison that has been plagued by allegations of inmate abuse and unsafe working conditions for staff.
In an announcement made today, Walker is proposing to convert the Lincoln Hills facility in Irma, a half-hour north of Wausau, into a medium-security adult correctional facility and open smaller youth prisons around the state.
“By moving from one facility to several facilities across the state, and placing a focus on mental health and trauma-informed care, we believe this plan will improve long-term outcomes for both juveniles and our staff working at these facilities,” Walker said in a press release. “Republicans and Democrats alike agree this is the way forward to reform juvenile corrections, and I thank state and local elected officials and interested organizations for partnering with us to develop this plan.”
In 2017, a federal judge ordered the state to dramatically reduce its use of solitary confinement, shackles and pepper spray on inmates at the Lincoln Hills facility.
Walker plans to include at least $80 million in the next state budget for the construction of six new juvenile correctional facilities for up to three dozen inmates, according to the release. The locations of the sites have not yet been chosen. According to the governor’s office, one facility will be built on the campus of the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison.