Governor Walker's $80 million proposal would replace the state's one juvenile corrections facility at Lincoln Hills with five regional facilities throughout the state.
Lincoln Hills has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, with concerns ranging from inmate abuse to unsafe working conditions.
"All we can do is hope when they move all the youth into smaller facilities, they keep the count low so they can work with them," youth counselor Kal Tesky said.
The regional facilities would each house up to three dozen offenders. The plan also calls for expanding mental health treatment. Governor Walker says at least one facility would be north of the line between Manitowoc and La Crosse.
But a local lawmaker north of that line says this move at this time is politically motivated.
"It's something that should have been earlier, obviously," State Senator Dave Hansen (D) said. "It's political. He's got an election, he's getting some heat because Lincoln Hills hasn't done well."
We reached out to Walker's office for response on the timing of the announcement but did not hear back. If the legislature approves the plan, the regional facilities aren't expected to open until at least 2019.
Walker said the state will begin siting new facilities immediately to help ensure a smooth transition for officers and offenders.