Crowd rallies against proposed Hortonia youth prison

HORTONIA, Wi (WBAY) - Dozens rallied, signed petitions, and spent more than an hour discussing why they believe the decision to put a youth prison in Hortonia is a mistake.

“It was made wrongfully, and it was made in too much haste,” said Tim Manion, co-chair for the Citizens for the Preservation of Hortonia Committee.

The correctional facility would be built off State Rd. 15 near Hwy 45. Many believe it would bring more crime to the rural town, and some say it’s located in a designated preservation area. Aside from all the concerns people have about the placement, another major concern is how the Department of Corrections (DOC) informed the community about its plan.

“Government is for the people by the people of the people, not sticking it to the people,” said Manion.

Manion and others say the DOC chose the location without discussing it with town officials first.

“The secretary did state he’d like our support, but he doesn’t need our support,” said Manion. “That’s not a way to build community partnerships.”

Since then, the community has worked hard to try and make the DOC hear them.

“At last count, we’re pushing the 600 number on petition signatures, we’ve got 200 signs out,” said Dan Mercer, also co-chair for the Citizens for the Preservation of Hortonia Committee.

Rep. Michael Schraa (R – Oshkosh), the chair of the state’s Corrections Committee, told people at the rally their efforts are working.

“I do not believe joint finance is going to approve any effort from DOC to continue on this piece of property just because of the pushback they’ve gotten so far,” said Schraa.

But he argued that the facility would actually be a good opportunity for any community, considering the good-paying jobs it would create.

Schraa also argues the facilities are a lot more secure than most would think.

“If DOC would’ve gone about it the right way and talked to all of you about it and shown you renderings, I think the attitude would be totally different,” said Schraa.

But that didn’t happen. The people of Hortonia and its surrounding towns overwhelmingly believe placing a youth prison there is the wrong call, and that they deserve a say in what comes to their peaceful community.

“We only have one opportunity to make a first impression, and our impression right now is very strong and very forceful,” said Manion.