MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A legislative committee was set Wednesday to take up a $184 million plan to replace Wisconsin’s troubled youth prison with new facilities.
The prison near Irma houses the Lincoln Hills School for male offenders and Copper Lake School for females. The institution has been dogged for years by allegations of guard-on-prisoner abuse. Lawmakers in 2018 passed a bill that would close the prison by January 2021 and replace it with new juvenile state prisons and smaller county-run juvenile detention centers.
Questions about how to fund construction of the replacement facilities has slowed progress, however. Legislators last year pushed the closure date for Lincoln Hills-Copper Lake back to July 1, 2021.
The Department of Corrections has submitted a plan to Legislature’s the finance committee that calls for building two new juvenile prisons, one of Milwaukee and the other in Hortonia in Outagamie County.
The projects are expected to cost a combined $73.2 million. The Corrections Department wants to pay for them by borrowing the money but lacks the authority to execute it. The full Legislature would have to authorize the borrowing before work could begin.
A grant committee led by Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr submitted another plan to the finance committee that calls for building detention centers in Brown, Dane, Milwaukee and Racine counties using $111 million in grants. Only $80 million has been set aside for such grants. The finance committee could release that money Wednesday.
Either the full Legislature or the state Building Commission would have to approve borrowing to back the remaining $31 million the counties need.