State News

Lincoln Hills to be replaced by new locations in Milwaukee and Outagamie

After years of turmoil including multiple cases of assault and lawsuits, Lincoln Hills juvenile detention center will close down, moving its inmates closer to home. 

Image By: Keegan Govin

The Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls will finally see closure after Governor Tony Evers announced the two cities selected to house new facilities in hopes of creating a safer environment for the incarcerated juveniles Tuesday.  

“Today’s announcements show significant action towards our shared goal of ensuring kids get the education, programming and mental health treatment they need in supportive settings that are closer to their families and communities,” Gov. Evers said. 

Following Wisconsin Act 185 created during former Gov. Scott Walker’s administration in 2017, the sibling detention centers will close down and be replaced by new Secure Youth Residential Centers for Children and Youth that have been chosen based on their proximity to a majority of the offenders’ homes.

Department of Corrections Secretary-designee Kevin Carr said the goal of this strategic move is to support inmates and decrease rates of recidivism by creating greater access to the children’s families. 

“Research shows that children in incarceration make significant strides toward positive change when they are closer to their communities and loved ones,” Carr said. 

Although the specific sites have not be chosen, the construction will begin in Milwaukee and in Outagamie County — significantly closer locations to compared to Irma. 

However, advocates have previously pushed back against the seemingly easy-fix solution of closing the center and opening a new one to improve inmate conditions.

“The risk here is that the state will replicate the mistreatment in Lincoln Hills at the new county-level facilities,” said Larry Dupuis, Legal Director at the American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin.

Lincoln Hills and Cooper Lake Schools have seen criminal investigations into child neglect and abuse for the last four years, yielding over $20 million in settlements, after an influx of inmates did not result in an increase of staff positions. 

The detention centers have also been criticized for not providing education programs to their inmates and mistreatment of solitary confinement facilities.  

The Juvenile Corrections Grant Committee, chaired by Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, will determine and allocate grants given to counties to support their construction under Gov. Evers' supervision. 

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