Wisconsin lawmakers approve $41.8 million for new youth prison

Posted at 1:15 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 14:15:27-05

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Senate was poised to pass a bill Tuesday that would fund a youth prison in Milwaukee County, setting the stage for closing the state’s existing youth prison in northern Wisconsin.

The bipartisan proposal would authorize the state to borrow $41.8 million to build the Milwaukee County facility. The Legislature’s finance committee would have to approve the borrowing. Senate approval would send the proposal to the Assembly.

The state Department of Corrections currently runs one youth prison, located outside Irma in northern Wisconsin. The facility has been plagued with problems for years.

The FBI in 2015 probed allegations of prisoner abuse, sexual assault, witness intimidation and record tampering at the prison. The investigation ended in 2019 with no charges filed, but the DOC reached settlements totaling more than $25 million in cases brought by inmates’ families. A federal judge assigned a monitor to assess conditions at the prison as part of a 2017 settlement resolving a lawsuit brought by civil rights and youth advocates.

Legislators in 2019 passed a law that required the state to shut down the prison by July 2021. The law required the state to replace it with smaller regional prisons and detention centers but a lack of funding for the new facilities essentially killed that plan.