Milwaukee County Plans Secured Center for Low-Level Juvenile Offenders

By Roxanne Squires

MILWAUKEE COUNTY, Wis. — Milwaukee County officials announced plans to build a new, secured residential center on Milwaukee’s northwest area to hold non-serious juvenile offenders when two of the state’s juvenile correctional facilities close in 2021.

Act 185, which was signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker in 2018, orders the shutdown of the two juvenile correctional facilities, Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake.

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections plans to open smaller “Type 1” juvenile correctional facilities for youth in the senior juvenile offender program, while counties will operate facilities for low-level youth offenders. 

After reviewing nearly 40 site options, the county has narrowed down the possible new center location to two different, remote locations, while Milwaukee County prepares submitting a proposal to the state by March 31 to secure funding for its planned facility.

The county estimates it needs about 5.5 acres for the new building, and requires a site located near a bus stop to make it accessible for visiting family members.

The center will include education, rehabilitation and workforce training to assimilate young people back into the community and is expected to house about 40 youth at any given time.

It currently costs about $140,000 each year to house a minor in a correctional facility, while 70 to 80 percent of youth re-offend after their release.

Mary Jo Meyers, director of the Department of Health and Human Services for Milwaukee County, said that the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services Division of Youth & Family Services of have been working over the past seven years on juvenile justice reform to reduce the number of people entering the system and improve the outcomes for those who do, including reducing recidivism. The closure of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake provides an opportunity for Milwaukee County to build on those efforts, Meyers said, according to Milwaukee Business News.

Reports from the Milwaukee Business News contributed to this story.