Senate Majority Leader questions timeline of plan to close Linco - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Senate Majority Leader questions timeline of plan to close Lincoln Hills youth prison

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MADISON (WKOW) --  Lawmakers are rolling up their sleeves to begin transforming the juvenile justice system by 2020. A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced their plan to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake by July 1, 2020.

However, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called the proposal a “big lift” to get done this session. Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh ) says it might just be false hope.

"Will it be oh we tried, or is this something that is real?” Hintz said. “I think right now it's questionable if its actually going to get done."

The legislation creates a council to study juvenile corrections issues and will allow counties to apply for state funding grants. Counties can apply to get funding up to 95% for costs to rebuild or update centers.

Rep. Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) says a lot of the work will require counties to work together. “They have to make a plan, they can either establish their own secure center, partner with other countries to establish one center or contract to place their youth with another county," Schraa said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) says having counties work with each other to find ideal locations for offenders will reduce costs.

"An incentive from them to cooperate so we don't have 72 facilities and invizion maybe half a dozen across the state where counties would cooperate to have the best facilities at the lowest cost," Vos said.

The proposal will also address the need to update programs offered at youth prisons to reduce recidivism.

Democrats say they're are glad after numerous cries for help to begin fixing long overdue problems. Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) says the time to celebrate this proposal is when the Governor signs it.

"It’s a good first step, but it's not the end,” Goyke said. “This ends with a signature from the governor, passes the state senate and the assembly as a whole and then work continues this summer and the fall as the planning takes root."

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