By Ethan Duran
Milwaukee officials will meet in early 2023 to decide a zoning change for an incoming juvenile detention facility to replace Lincoln Hills School and Copper Lake School.
The Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee will meet on Jan. 10 to discuss a substitute ordinance to change the zoning at 7930 W. Clinton Ave. to a detailed planned development to let the Department of Corrections build a juvenile correctional facility.
The state chose a site between West Good Hope Road and North 76th Street for the incoming juvenile justice center after existing facilities in Irma were raided in 2015 following numerous reports of abuse and youth mistreatment. Gov. Tony Evers said in August the state needed to move as quickly as possible to build a Type 1 facility in southeast Wisconsin.
Residents opposed to the project pointed out many businesses had left the north side of Milwaukee and said a correctional facility would discourage others from buying properties in the area, continuing the cycle of desolation and disrepair.
“I can’t imagine how proposing and building a Type 1 … correctional facility will encourage people to want to purchase property, homes and businesses in this area,” one resident said in a letter. “I predict that there will be another mass exodus of residents and businesses leaving the area which will damage it further.”
Rep. Evan Goyke, who represents the 18th District where the new center would be located, said the facility will be secure and offer access to public transit and access to a diverse employment base. Inmates would have the opportunity to take employment training opportunities and educational programming, as well as get a needed alternative from Lincoln Hills.
“Evidence based research shows that housing juveniles close to home matters,” Goyke said in a letter. “Experts presented this to the state legislature. This location, and those housed within, will be supported with better treatment, programming and re-entry services. This will result in lower recidivism rates, which increases public safety and saves taxpayer dollars.”
Crews will build a single-story building with a mechanical penthouse above, with 32 bedrooms and spaces for education, vocational training, programming, indoor recreation, visitation, health services and food service, the agenda showed. The facility will include secure outdoor recreation space, a perimeter patrol and access for emergency cars around the recreation yards and sides of the building.
Both the Legislature and Common Council supported having the juvenile justice facility in Milwaukee, as council members passed their approval in August following the Department of Administration’s acquisition of the land.
Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake were subject to a police probe seven years ago when law enforcement officers raided both facilities in response to numerous reports and allegations of mistreatment. The state has spent $25 million on legal fees and settlements following the litany of abuse reports, the governor’s office said.