Walker wants Lincoln Hills closed to create 5 regional teen pris - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Walker wants Lincoln Hills closed to create 5 regional teen prisons


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced plans to close troubled Lincoln Hills juvenile prison, open five regional teenage prisons.

Walker said Thursday he would seek at least $80 million in the 2019-21 state budget to construct the new regional prisons, including at least one located north of a line between Manitowoc and La Crosse.
Walker said the reforms:

--Would "align" the state's juvenile corrections and treatment systems "with nationally recognized best practices."

--Would require the Department of Corrections to move juveniles at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools into five new "type one" juvenile correctional facilities and one new juvenile mental health facility.

--Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake would be transitioned into a medium-security adult prison.

Democrats were quick to criticize Walker, calling his plan an election year move as he begins his campaign for a third term.

“As governor, he has failed to visit a single correctional or juvenile facility in his entire tenure," said state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee. "It’s clear where his priorities are, and that this is just another attempt to play politics and get this scandal, recently confirmed by his former corrections secretary, off his back.”

In a statement, she added, "As usual, the governor is a day late and a dollar short on helping Wisconsin’s most vulnerable populations.”

While officials believe the new system will help youth inmates rehabilitate better, former staff member Doug Curtis believes the state is just trying to make a profit.

"Let's bring in the adults so we can make more money," said Curtis. "And that's the bottom line, money. This decision was not made with the kids' best interest in mind."

Curtis also said he's doubtful the state will provide the funds necessary to operate the new regional facilities. 

"It's going to leave us with the same problem," he said. "They won't hire the people, they won't pony up the money to pay for the staff."

However, Department of Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher said funding will not be a problem.

"There is no fear on my part of that at all," he said. "In fact, I think the money that has been discussed - which is approximately $80 million to build these sites - will be more than sufficient."

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