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Building Commission OKs money for juvenile prison design work

The Lincoln Hills juvenile prison in Irma. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File)

The Wisconsin State Building Commission approved funding on Wednesday for design and planning work for a $42 million juvenile prison in Milwaukee that’s part of a plan to replace the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prisons in northern Wisconsin.

The commission’s approval of $4 million for the Milwaukee County juvenile prison comes as a bipartisan bill authorizing borrowing for the project works its way through the Legislature. That legislation has already attracted bipartisan support and received a hearing before the state Senate’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

Following a series of scandals at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, both in Irma, lawmakers voted in 2018 to replace them with smaller, regional youth correctional centers. But those plans have stalled several times. The state last summer missed its own self-imposed deadline for closing the prisons.

Gov. Tony Evers hailed the building commission’s vote on Wednesday setting aside money for design and planning work as a step in the right direction.

“I am glad after years of delays and obstruction by the Legislature, the Commission today released funding for the development and design of a new Type 1 Juvenile Correctional Facility in Milwaukee County so we can move forward on our goal to get our kids out of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake and get them closer to home safely and responsibly,” he said in a statement.

The plans for the Milwaukee County juvenile prison follow on the building commission’s previous approval last spring of the construction of a $66 million correctional center in Dane County — the first of four such county-run operations that are eventually to be used as replacements of Lincoln Hills. Work is expected to start this year on that youth prison and wrap up in 2024.

About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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