Proposal to close troubled youth prisons still without a committee hearing

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MADISON (WKOW) — Next week the budget writing committee plans to vote on raises for prison guards and funding for additional beds for inmates to deal with overcrowding, but there are no proposals focused on juveniles on the agenda.

This comes after a court-monitor report shows Lincoln Hills youth prison is still strip searching and pepper spraying inmates despite a federal court order to cut back.

The timeline to close Lincoln Hill and Copper Lake youth prisons are also not finalized. Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and Representative Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) drafted a bill to push back the original closing date from January 2021 to July 2021. Today, the bill has yet to receive a committee hearing.

Schraa and Goyke talked about youth prisons Friday during taping for WKOW’s Capital City that airs Sunday at 9 a.m.

“I’ve been talking to the Speaker (Rep. Robin Vos) every day trying and get a specific date for a hearing,” said Rep. Schraa. “We’re already passed a couple of deadlines.”

In 2018, lawmakers passed a bill to close both facilities by 2021 with the intent to build smaller, regional facilities closer to inmates families. Gov. Tony Evers wanted to suspend the closure date indefinitely, a proposal some members on the committee on corrections opposed.

“Some of the details that we’re discussing now and the legislative initiatives underway are to ensure the system we enacted a year ago will be administered efficiently and successfully,” said Rep. Goyke.

Goyke and Schraa say they understand the need to act sooner rather than later as the timeline continues to be pushed back after county governments asked for more time to build new facilities.

“We have a lot of moving pieces that were trying to work out and fix a couple of pieces that the county and state need to get right in order to get this system in place,” said Goyke.

Schraa said he’s confident the bill will get a hearing in a few weeks then head to the floor for a vote in June.


Emilee Fannon

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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