Youth prison bill to Evers after Wisconsin Senate approves

The Wisconsin state Senate on Tuesday sent a bill that would fund a new youth prison to Gov. Tony Evers.

The legislation would authorize the state to borrow $42 million to build a new youth prison in Milwaukee County. The bill doesn’t specify a location but would make construction contingent upon local government officials’ approval. The existing facility in Irma would be converted to an adult institution.

The Senate first passed the bill last month. The Assembly passed it days later but added language requiring local approval and to convert the existing prison to an adult facility and sent the bill back to the Senate for concurrence.

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The Senate approved the changes on a voice vote Tuesday afternoon and sent the bill on to Evers, who can sign the measure into law or veto it. Evers has called the legislation "a step in the right direction."

The Legislature four years ago vote to close the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons that share a campus in Irma. But lawmakers never came through with the money for a replacement facility.

The FBI in 2015 probed allegations of prisoner abuse, sexual assault, witness intimidation and record tampering at Lincoln Hills. The investigation ended in 2019 with no charges filed, but the state Department of Corrections reached settlements totaling more than $25 million in cases brought by inmates’ families.

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