Walker calls for closure of Wisconsin's juvenile prison

Saturday, 13 Jan, 2018

The move settles a almost year-oldfederal lawsuit brought by reform advocates.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the governor wants to implement the changes in a "thoughtful and purposeful way" but would support moving more quickly if the Legislature wanted to do so this year.

While some Democrats hailed the proposal, others called it a tactic to smooth over hurdles in Walker's re-election bid for a third term.

"Republicans and Democrats alike agree this is the way forward to reform juvenile corrections", Walker said.

State Rep. Dana Wachs, an Eau Claire Democrat running for the gubernatorial post, criticized Walker for not doing something sooner.

"I was actually ecstatic", said Sharlen Moore with Youth Justice Milwaukee. "For years, he's done nothing". Only now that a criminal investigation by the FBI is ramping up is Gov. Walker acting. I've got news for Gov. Walker: "we won't forget his behavior". He said he was told the proposal would preserve jobs in Lincoln County.

"It was a planning as to get where we are today with Lincoln Hills/Copper Lakes as far as for the treatment and educational emphasis and providing treatment staff, and the next step in that development and ongoing improvement will be to match those type of improvements to smaller, community-based, organizational sites found within the community of need", Litscher said. Advocates who have been pushing Walker to make such a move, say it's a step in the right direction, but there's still more work to be done.

Before state and federal raids on the facility in December 2015, staff also regularly physically abused youth in the facility, even breaking their arms and legs in some cases, according to the ACLU.

No one has been charged.

A federal judge past year ordered the state to dramatically reduce its use of solitary confinement, shackles and pepper spray on inmates at Lincoln Hills, which is about 20 miles north of Wausau.

Delagrave said it is a good move "from a care factor". "The timing of this announcement is so transparent and does nothing to address the immediate safety concerns for staff and youth". His plan doesn't call for opening the new regional prisons until 2019 at the earliest. Three of them likely would be placed in southeastern Wisconsin, where most inmates come from, and the other two places in northern, western or central regions.

Walker announced plans on Thursday to spend $80 million on five new regional juvenile prisons and a larger mental-health center for girls in Madison.

"We talked with lawmakers from both political parties", he said, "which is why you saw support from both parties yesterday".

One lawsuit filed since the investigation began is a class-action suit from former and current inmates represented by the American Civil Liberties Union-Wisconsin and the Juvenile Law Center.

Dupuis says that the ACLU of Wisconsin will continue to monitor what's happening with youth at the two facilities both now and once the transition has been made.

The state of Wisconsin is changing the way it handles some of its worst juvenile offenders.