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As I See It

No money for new youth prisons means more of the same

Scott Robert Shaw

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When it comes to resolving the problems at Wisconsin’s troubled youth prison, lawmakers are choosing to kick the can down the road. The Lincoln Hill School for Boys in Irma has been dogged for years by allegations of guard-on-prisoner abuse which was the subject of an FBI investigation. So back in 2018, lawmakers voted to close the prison by January of next year, and replace it with new juvenile state prisons in Milwaukee and Outagamie counties. The Department of Corrections this week presented a plan to the Legislature’s Finance Committee which called for spending $73 million on two new prisons for young offenders. But legislators rejected that proposal, saying they don’t have the money to build the prisons. That presents quite a quandry. The current prison is due to close next year, but there are no plans to build replacement facilities. It seems unlikely that deadline will be met. In fact, some now wonder whether Lincoln Hills will ever close. The decision to close Lincoln Hills was made in 2018 when Governor Walker signed a bill into law. This is not a partisan issue. Not a single legislator voted not to close the facility. Lawmakers have wasted the last two years trying to find suitable sites for new prisons, and the money to pay for them. Now it looks like they are willing to waste even more time, even as the clock is ticking to close the troubled facility.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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