Lawmakers to revise juvenile corrections plan

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Corrections would no longer face a hard deadline of July 1, 2020, to close Lincoln Hills to provide flexibility for the opening of new juvenile facilities under a substitute amendment lawmakers plan to introduce today, Rep. Michael Schraa told

The amendment to the juvenile corrections plan a bipartisan group of lawmakers released last week would address several concerns from the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Department of Corrections and others.

That includes:

*Allowing for a more flexible timeline for counties to construct new facilities;

*Adding more county representation on the Juvenile Corrections Study Committee, which would develop recommendations for the location and rules for type 1 juvenile facilities.

Schraa said softening the closing date for Lincoln Hills would give Corrections more flexibility in case the proposed type 1 facilities — which would house the most serious youth offenders — are not completed by July 1, 2020.

“I think everybody is on board,” Schraa said. “We’re getting really good indications from the governor that he is supportive of our bill, any concerns that the counties or agencies had are being addressed, I think we’re going to see this thing fly through the Assembly on a bipartisan basis.”

WCA officials said at a public hearing Thursday they were worried about being able to build new juvenile facilities under the bill’s timeline, having no allocated state funding to operate them, and being able to transfer juveniles to DOC facilities if they run out of space or cannot provide adequate care.

Gov. Scott Walker originally proposed to convert Lincoln Hills into an alcohol treatment facility. But DOC representatives at the hearing hoped that a new version of the bill would allow the agency to convert Lincoln Hills to an adult facility without any restrictions on who’s housed there and that only serious juvenile offenders be placed in type 1 DOC facilities.

The substitute amendment addresses such concerns by removing the requirement that DOC submit a plan to the Joint Finance Committee regarding the feasibility of converting Lincoln Hills to an alcohol treatment facility and allow DOC more flexibility to determine the facility’s use.

Schraa said lawmakers are planning to introduce their amendment Tuesday, prior to an anticipated Assembly floor vote on the bill Wednesday.

WCA government affairs director Kyle Christianson said the group submitted a list of 10 concerns it had with the bill on Friday. He said there’s been an ongoing conversations with Schraa, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee.

“I think they’ve been receptive to a number of our concerns. We are appreciative of their efforts and look forward to seeing what this next bill draft looks like,” Christianson said.

DOC spokesman Tristan Cook said DOC is evaluating the language and has not yet taken a position.

“Ultimately, our goal is to continue aligning the Division of Juvenile Corrections with national best practices in line with Governor Walker’s plan for juvenile corrections,” he said.

Other provisions in the substitute amendment include:

*Providing for clearer language regarding transfers of juveniles between state and county facilities;

*Removing language giving the Department of Children and Families the ability to make rules regarding type 1 juvenile facilities and instead giving the authority to DOC;

*Requiring the state to cover costs related to female juvenile offenders;

*Providing for an up to 15 percent increase in youth aids for affected counties in the next budget.