Shifting his approach to Wisconsin’s long-troubled juvenile prison, Gov. Scott Walker detailed an $80 million plan to turn Lincoln Hills School for Boys into an adult facility and open five smaller teen lockups around the state, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The GOP governor developed the plan after prosecutors said they could charge two former guards and as he heads into his re-election bid. His plan, modeled in large part on a proposal by a Milwaukee Democrat, would be enacted in 2019 or later.
Walker is trying to address a host of problems at the juvenile prison while also finding a way to deal with a growing population in crowded adult prisons. Some Democrats welcomed his changed approach to corrections but viewed the proposal as a ploy to deflect an issue that could be used against him in his re-election campaign. Some past critics embraced his proposal. “Under this approach, we will be able to reduce recidivism, improve public safety and better focus our resources on providing evidence-based and trauma-informed interventions for those youth with serious mental health concerns and high-risk behaviors,” said Milwaukee County Chief Judge Maxine White, who has called the treatment of inmates at Lincoln Hills “inhumane.” Walker’s move comes six years after his office was notified by a judge of problems at the facility, three years after a criminal investigation began, and six months after a federal judge put restrictions on how the prison operates. The Journal Sentinel has reported that teen inmates had been injured at the prison, including one who had to have parts of two toes partially amputated after a guard slammed a door on his foot.