Former Lincoln Hills employee speaks out against plan to close troubled facility

Plan calls for spending $80M on five new juvenile prisons

The Latest: Walker calls for juvenile prison reorganization

Scott Walker today announced the closing of the troubled Lincoln Hills juvenile correctional facility.

The Governor wants to move more than 160 young people out of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, and into five regional facilities next year. Construction costs for the new facilities would total roughly $80 million, according to preliminary estimates from the DOC.

Walker also announced the expansion of a program for youths with mental health needs at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center.

Scott Walker's plan to move juvenile inmates out of a facility under federal investigation wouldn't be implemented until after voters decide whether to re-elect him this fall.

The proposal, unveiled Thursday, would also close the Copper Lake School for Girls, which shares grounds with Lincoln Hills.

DOC Secretary Jon Litscher, who took over the department in 2016 after almost all DOC officials who oversaw juvenile corrections quit or were fired, said in a statement the plan will "build on the many reforms" put in place since he took over.

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Each new facility will consist of 32-to-36 beds - with the money coming from new budgetary allotments by the DOC and the Department of Health Services.

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.

Wanggaard said there will likely be discussions with officials in the counties in southeastern Wisconsin to determine the best places for the facilities.

Gov. Walker said the only ones criticizing his plan are those running against him for governor, saying other democrats agree with his plan.

He says state law requires on facility to be in Northern Wisconsin. The Lincoln Hills campus is more than 200 miles away from Milwaukee, where a significant number of inmates live.

"As governor, he has failed to visit a single correctional or juvenile facility in his entire tenure", said state Sen. "That's what we need, not a career politician who operates out of fear".

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"It's going to leave us with the same problem".

"We'll see how those five work out", Wanggaard said.

"At least we know what it takes for Gov".

"Part of the reason why this is workable to make this change is right now we have a question of do we build a new facility to deal with the adult population", said Gov.

The problems at Lincoln Hills could be straightened by getting it under proper management and reworking of regulations that protect "staff and students alike", Crevier said.

Jessica Feierman, associate director of Juvenile Law Center, said Thursday that the plan "is a huge step forward for Wisconsin".

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In December 2015, dozens of state investigators arrived at Lincoln Hills to interview staff as part of a secret John Doe investigation of child neglect, tampering with public documents, intimidation of victims, use of pepper spray to cause bodily harm and intimidation of witnesses.

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