Walker calls for regional juvenile prisons

Posted at 2:15 p.m. on January 4, 2018

The Brillion News

MADISON – Governor Scott Walker announced a plan (on Thursday, January 4) to provide a long-term solution for Wisconsin’s juvenile corrections and treatment systems following extensive discussions with state and local officials, the judicial system, and stakeholders.

The plan significantly reforms juvenile corrections by moving from a system of one facility to five smaller, regional facilities located across the state and expanding Wisconsin’s internationally recognized juvenile treatment program for offenders with mental health challenges at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC) in Madison.

“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. “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.”

Walker’s plan will:

Reform Wisconsin’s juvenile corrections and treatment systems to align with nationally recognized best practices. The plan transforms Wisconsin’s juvenile corrections system from one facility to five smaller, regional facilities located across the state. The plan also expands the state’s internationally recognized juvenile treatment program for youth with mental health needs at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center.

Continue Wisconsin’s focus on enhancing mental health and treatment outcomes in close collaboration with families, courts, and Wisconsin counties.

Require the DOC to relocate juveniles at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools (LHS/CLS) to five new Type 1 juvenile correctional facilities and one new juvenile mental health facility. The new juvenile correctional facilities will each consist of 32 to 36 beds with staffing ratios consistent with requirements in the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and will be sited regionally based on population density. At least one correctional facility will be located north of a line between Manitowoc and La Crosse.

Transition the existing facility at LHS/CLS to a medium-security adult correctional facility with the cooperation of Lincoln County. This will maintain and potentially even expand the number of jobs in Lincoln County. The addition of this new adult facility will likely reduce DOC’s utilization of contract beds to house adult male inmates. The new facility will also increase DOC’s treatment capacity for inmates with assessed Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) treatment needs.

Require DOC to make employment opportunities available for LHS/CLS staff at the new adult facility in Lincoln County or one of the new juvenile facilities.

Require the Department of Health Services (DHS) to expand treatment services at the MJTC, serving more male juveniles as early as fall 2018, and creating a facility at MJTC to treat female juveniles with mental health needs. MJTC is internationally renowned for its treatment program, which was built from the ground up here in Wisconsin. Data shows significantly improved outcomes for juveniles who participated in treatment at MJTC.

Require DOC and DHS to include the costs of converting and operating these new facilities in their 2019-21 agency budget requests. Funding will be provided in the Governor’s 2019-21 Executive Budget to construct, purchase, and/or rehabilitate existing facilities to house juvenile inmates. Funding will also be provided to convert LHS/CLS to a medium security adult correctional facility. Construction costs for the new facilities would total roughly $80 million, according to preliminary estimates from the DOC.

The state will begin working with counties and other stakeholders to immediately site the new facilities and plan any other actions needed to ensure a smooth transition. Any programming adjustments will be administratively implemented by DOC in consultation with other state agencies and relevant stakeholders.

Walker’s plan is receiving bipartisan support.

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