Report: Replacing aging prison near Green Bay may cost $500M

ALLOUEZ — Lawmakers and economic development officials are calling on the state to replace a century-old prison in the Green Bay area, but the plan could cost taxpayers up to $500 million, consultants said.

Almost 30 percent of the Green Bay Correctional Institution in Allouez is in need of replacement, including two major housing units that are more than 95 years old, according to a study conducted by Minnesota-based architects BWBR and consulting engineers Mead & Hunt. Some cells at the maximum-security prison house two inmates within 56 square feet (5.2 square meters) and the kitchen struggles to feed nearly 300 more inmates than it was designed for, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported.

"Without wholesale replacement of critical functions like inmate housing and support services, the result will still be a facility that is functionally and operationally inefficient, and inconsistent with" modern prison design standards, the consultants said.

The study estimates that replacing the facility could cost between $450 million and $500 million.

Gov. Tony Evers has been facing growing pressure over Wisconsin's overcrowded prisons, but he announced last week he won't set aside funding in the budget to build a new prison in the Green Bay area. He acknowledged that a new prison is "something we have to weigh in," as the state has nearly 24,000 inmates in its system that's designed to house about 18,000.

Republican Rep. David Steffen proposed a replacement prison in 2017, saying it would cost about $150 million less than the report's estimate. Steffen has said a private company could build a prison for 1,300 inmates with a price tag of about $309 million.

"The institution is in clear disrepair," said Republican Sen. Rob Cowles. "The need to replace the facility is obvious. Work should begin now."