Plan to fund, build $42M Milwaukee juvenile detention center in limbo

February 24, 2022

The Wisconsin Senate unanimously passed legislation to fund and build a new youth detention facility in Milwaukee.

It would replace Lincoln Hills Juvenile Prison in northern Wisconsin.

Hours before the vote, reporters asked Assembly Speaker Robin Vos if the assembly would vote on the measure this legislative session.

“Unlikely, as we look at it, it’s definitely something we’re supportive of, but again there’s no detailed plan,” he responded.

In 2018 lawmakers voted to close Lincoln Hills, but have not followed through with funding to build the new facility.

“My first reaction is just absolute disappointment,” Sharlen Moore, director of Urban Underground and Youth Justice Milwaukee told WISN-TV 12. “When he says, ‘We’re not bringing this to the floor,’ it’s painful.”

Youth advocates are pushing for a vote, and to place the center in Milwaukee.

Moore said more than half of the 52 boys and girls at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake School are from Milwaukee.

The facility is a 3.5-hour drive away from the city.

“So those parents who have to sacrifice, those that have the ability to provide their own transportation, or those that have the time to commit to spending a full day out of their schedule to go and visit their child, is something that we should be screaming from the rooftops that this is not something that’s appropriate,” Moore said. “Young people do far better when they’re connected not only to their families but the community.”

Advocates believe the youth would have more resources available to help in Milwaukee.

“Unfortunately because the young people are so far away from home they don’t have those much – needed services that the folks here in Milwaukee can provide,” Moore said. “Connections to mentors and people who look like them, connection to therapists and again folks that look like them, connections to their families, just a whole network of services.”

Vos said Assembly Republicans want a more detailed plan from Gov. Tony Evers before voting.