Home Support system Bipartisan plan to build youth prison near Milwaukee and shut down Lincoln Hills now in jeopardy

Bipartisan plan to build youth prison near Milwaukee and shut down Lincoln Hills now in jeopardy


MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – A bipartisan bill to close a troubled youth prison and build a new one near Milwaukee is now in jeopardy despite lawmakers on both sides signaling support for the plan.

Momentum was building after the state Senate voted unanimously Tuesday (33-0) in favor of a bill to close Lincoln Hills and build a new facility in Milwaukee County. This would allow the state to borrow $41.8 million to fund a juvenile facility near Milwaukee in an effort to bring young people closer to their support system.

It was the next step towards closing the troubled youth prison that became the center of controversy in 2018.

However, the proposal likely died after Assembly Speaker Robin Vos expressed concerns about borrowing money before the location of the detention center was finalized.

“It’s very difficult for us to say we’re going to pass a bill with a lot of money without a site for it,” Vos said.

Democrats were frustrated because Republicans, including Vos, unanimously backed legislation to shut down the youth prison in 2018.

State Rep. Evan Goyke, (D-Milwaukee), said Vos’s resistance to holding a vote on the bill is an example of “why people hate politics.”

“There is one person who opposes this being done and that is Chairman Robin Vos,” said state Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee). “That’s why people hate politics right now. There’s no opposition, nobody’s saying don’t do this. It’s all about re-election politics and the two parties are unable to work together. ”

The location of the facility and its cost have stalled closure for years. The Evers administration has not decided on a location, but is considering the Felmers O. Chaney Correctional Center. Some supporters oppose closing Felmers Chaneywhich is used to help inmates prepare to re-enter the workforce.

Vos faulted Governor Evers for not coming up with a detailed plan on closing the detention center to eventually achieve his goal of building smaller regional facilities across the state.

State Sen. Lena Taylor, (D-Milwaukee), said it was ‘hogwash’ for the president to criticize the Evers administration, noting the Legislature must act first before plans are not finalized.

“[Vos] has blocked funding for the duration of this project and the administration cannot do anything until the legislature approves the money,” Taylor said.

A spokeswoman for Evers said in a statement, “It is the height of hypocrisy for Republicans to blame anyone but themselves for not shutting down Lincoln Hills after rejecting repeatedly the efforts of Governor Evers and our administration to do so.”


In 2018, lawmakers voted to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake after both establishments faced criminal investigations for allegations of child abuse and neglect.

The original closing deadline was set for January 2021, but lawmakers eventually realized they couldn’t commit to it due to a lack of funding for the project.

Governor Tony Evers signed an extension in 2019 to close youth prisons by July 2021, but later acknowledged that was not a realistic deadline.

Since then, Evers has offered funding in the last two budgets to replace Lincoln Hills, but Republicans have rejected his request.


In 2018, the state agreed to pay more than $25 million in settlements after scores of miners were left in solitary confinement for weeks, sprayed with pepper spray and, in some cases, seriously injured.

The criminal investigation in the detention centers ended in 2019 without any charges.

This resulted in a court-appointed monitor frequently traveling to Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake to review conditions.

Latest reports have shown improvements.

the last report published this month showed physical improvements to the building and the renovation of a new recreational space for staff and young people.

The supervisor noted concerns from some minors, including complaints about the food and the lack of consistency in the rules.