Governor Walker Defends his Lincoln Hills Proposal

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KIMBERLY, Wis. (WBAY) - In Northeast Wisconsin on Friday, Governor Scott Walker talked about his proposal to close the Lincoln Hills-Copper Lake youth prison complex. Gov. Walker announced his plan is to close the troubled facility in favor of spending an estimated $80 million to build or refurbish smaller, regional detention centers.

In Kimberly to talk about youth apprenticeship programs, Governor Walker took questions about his proposal to close Lincoln Hills. The prison complex for teens has been plagued by accusations of abuse and neglect, made public by both former workers and inmates.

The governor said, after lengthy discussions and researching what other states have done he is in favor of closing the prison complex.which houses about 170 boys and girls in favor of opening five smaller facilities, plus one just for females.

Gov. Walker adds, "The idea being it's easier to contain, to put them in, scatter them around the state so they're closer not just to family support systems but to the counties that are ultimately where they have been sentenced from with the idea being that that's easier to manage and it's an effective model we've seen work elsewhere."

Since the majority of offenders housed at Lincoln Hills are from the Southeastern part of the state, the governor said three of the new facilities would be located in that region.

State statute requires one to be in the northern part of Wisconsin, and space at Mendota Mental Health Institute near Madison would be utilized for the all-female facility and mental health housing.

"Any of the sightings we're going to work with the counties, that's why we work with the Wisconsin Counties Association to make sure they were part of this proposal as well because they'll be the ones that will help us find the appropriate sites since they are the ones that sentence people into the system," says Walker.

The governor dismissed critics who say his 2019 deadline isn't quick enough, saying his proposal has bipartisan support.

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