Proposal for state-of-the-art prison to replace GBCI goes to budget committee

Green Bay Correctional Institution in Allouez (WBAY photo)
Green Bay Correctional Institution in Allouez (WBAY photo)(WBAY)
Published: Apr. 18, 2019 at 10:05 PM CDT
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A proposal to shut down the Green Bay Correctional Institution in Allouez and build a new, state-of-the-art prison facility has been submitted to the state's budget committee. State lawmakers say the proposal would save taxpayers millions of dollars in the long run.

GBCI has had its fair share of issues with inmate and staff assaults, security and drug smuggling. For years lawmakers have put effort into finding a solution for GBCI, including shutting it down and using the area for mixed-use development or keeping it open and repairing the 121-year-old facility.

The proposal was written by Republican state Rep. David Steffen of Howard. It includes building a 1,200 bed prison within two facilities somewhere in rural Brown County.

"One that's a 900 bed facility, an additional one that's 300 bed. The 300 bed is probably the one of most interest because that one is going to be dedicated to high-level recidivism reduction programming, life training services, vocational training, educational programming and mental health services," said Steffen.

Steffen says the current facility is in need of more than $200 million in repairs.

Still, his proposal is met with opposition. State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) tells Action 2 News his stance the GBCI proposal in a statement.

"There is plenty of land inside the prison walls to update it and make it safer without spending a half-billion dollars on a new prison at a time when Governor Evers has said he wants to reduce the number of inmates in our correctional facilities," said Sen. Hansen.

Steffen says that half billion dollar estimate is inaccurate. His proposal suggests the new facility would cost anywhere from $230 million to $290 million.

"When you have that level of repair that's needed, $200 million worth or 95 percent of the facility is in need, well, I think you start making a cost-benefit analysis and say let's not throw good money out for bad, let's create a state-of-the-art facility," said Rep. Steffen.

The proposal also highlights the village of Allouez's $100 million redevelopment opportunity.

"According to the St. Norbert's Economic Impact Study that was done on the property, that produced over 100 million dollars of economic development and over a thousand jobs for the Village of Allouez,” says Steffen.

Hansen responded in a statement saying, "While I can see the economic benefit to Allouez if the current prison is closed, I am concerned that the proposal to build a new prison is not well thought out and that it is not being proposed for the right reasons, those being the safety of correctional officers and staff and inmates.”

"This will be the last push. This is the last run at this for this period of time,” said Rep. Steffen. “The reality is that if I can't get the governor to agree to it if it makes it to his desk, well, I think I'll have to wait for a new governor.”

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