MADISON (WKOW) --- Governor Scott Walker is planning an overhaul of the state's juvenile justice system. And the changes involve the troubled Lincoln Hills youth prison in Irma.
His plan calls for changing Lincoln Hills and the Copper Lake School for Girls into adult prisons, opening five new regional juvenile prisons across the state, and expanding a mental health facility in Madison.
Walker said by moving from one facility to several facilities across the state, and placing a focus on mental health and trauma-informed care, he believe the plan will improve long-term outcomes for both juveniles and our staff working at these facilities.
“Republicans and Democrats alike agree this is the way forward to reform juvenile corrections, and I thank state and local elected officials and interested organizations for partnering with us to develop this plan,” Walker said.
But Doug Curtis -- a former Lincoln Hills staff member – disagrees. He thinks the state is trying to profit off the system.
“Let's bring in the adults so we can make more money. and that's the bottom line - money. this decision was not made with the kid's best interest in mind,” Curtis said.
Each new facility will consist of 32-to-36 beds -- with the money coming from new budgetary allotments by the DOC and the Department of Health Services.
"There is no fear on my part of that at all. In fact, I think the money that has been discussed which is approximately $80 million to build these sites will be more than sufficient,” said Jon Litscher, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
But Curtis thinks even with the promise of more money, funding and staffing will continue to be a problem.
"It's going to leave us with the same problem. They won't hire the people. They won't pony up the money to pay for the staff."
Litscher said the regional facilities will accommodate the inmate population.
According to the governor's office, the proposed reorganization has been in the works for over a year.