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Evers administration picks site for new youth prison

The facility would replace the state's existing youth prison outside Irma. The existing facility has been plagued by allegations of guard-on-prisoner abuse.
tony evers
Posted at 5:30 PM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 18:30:36-04

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Officials in Gov. Tony Evers' administration have moved a step closer toward replacing the state's troubled youth prison, announcing Tuesday that they've picked a site in Milwaukee for a new facility.

The existing youth prison, a combination facility for boys and girls known as Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, is located outside Irma in northern Wisconsin. The prison has been plagued by allegations of guard-on-prisoner abuse for years. The American Civil Liberties Union in 2017 filed a federal lawsuit, which resulted in a judge ordering an independent monitor to provide regular reports on prison conditions.

The Legislature in 2018 passed a bill calling for the state Department of Corrections to close the prison and replace it with smaller, regional facilities.

Efforts to find locations and secure funding proved fruitless until Evers signed a bill earlier this year that allocated $42 million for a new state youth prison. Administration officials said Thursday that as of July 28 they had signed an agreement to acquire the site. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the site is in an industrial district.

Under the bill, the Milwaukee Common Council must sign off on the site. The council isn't scheduled to meet again until September, but Evers' administration said council President Jose Perez is expected to call a special meeting to vote on the site this week. The Journal Sentinel reported the meeting is set for Friday.

Council approval would be the first of a number of steps toward construction, including public hearings and rezoning approval from the city.