The state will build two new youth prisons in Milwaukee and Outagamie County to replace the troubled Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday.
The Milwaukee facility will be located in northern Milwaukee at the intersection of Teutonia Avenue and Mill Road, and the other will be northwest of Appleton in Hortonia.
The two locations were chosen based on recommendations made by a 25-member study committee created last year by the Legislature.
"Research shows that children in incarceration make significant strides toward positive change when they are closer to their communities and loved ones," said Department of Corrections Secretary-designee Kevin Carr in a statement. "I look forward to working with the Grant Committee and Wisconsin counties to develop a network of local opportunities to support our youth."
Lawmakers voted unanimously last year to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake by 2021 and send most youth offenders to facilities overseen by counties throughout the state. The legislation came after years of allegations of inmate abuse and unsafe working conditions at the state's only juvenile corrections facility.
Under the law, the most serious juvenile offenders — those who commit crimes such as murder or first-degree sexual assault — will be housed in new facilities overseen by the state Department of Corrections. Those who commit lesser offenses will be placed in secure residential care centers overseen by county governments with support from the state.
The law requires the Department of Corrections to build at least one new prison for serious juvenile offenders at an estimated cost of $25 million. The state will also spend $15 million to add capacity for at least 29 offenders at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison, and $40 million in grants to help counties cover the costs of building or renovating their own facilities.
In his budget proposal, Evers has removed the requirement to close the facility by 2021. Teens currently housed in Lincoln Hills would be transferred to new facilities as soon as an appropriate slot was available, and Lincoln Hills would close once the last offender was taken to a new facility.
Evers' budget would also allocate $115 million to build up to three new prisons for serious juvenile offenders — an increase of $90 million. His budget would allocate $59 million to add a 50-bed addition at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center — an increase of $44 million — and $100 million in grants for counties to build or renovate their own facilities.
"We are committed to getting kids out of Lincoln Hills and closer to home as soon as we safely and responsibly can," Evers said in a statement. "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."