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Expansion of Madison unit for juvenile offenders approved

May 6, 2021 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Legislature’s budget committee voted unanimously Thursday to expand a mental health center in Madison to reduce the number of inmates at the state’s juvenile prisons.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee voted to go along with Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to borrow up to $66 million to build a new unit at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison. The new unit will be able to house up to 30 boys and 20 girls.

The will reduce the number of juveniles housed at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls which are located north of Wausau.

“It’s a win for the state, it’s a win for the taxpayers and mainly it’s a win for these kids,” said Sen. Mary Felzkowski, a Republican whose district includes the juvenile prisons. She said investing in the Madison unit will save taxpayer money and provide better services to the youth treated there.

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Current law requires those juvenile prisons to close by July, a deadline both Republicans and Democrats admit will not be met. Building the new unit in Madison is part of the plan to close the juvenile prisons, which have been the target of numerous lawsuits alleging abuse by guards and criminal investigations.

An independent court-ordered monitor reported last month that conditions were improving at the juvenile prisons.