Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls are located in the rural community of Irma, in Lincoln County, Wisconsin about two and a half hours north of Madison and three and a half hours from Milwaukee. In 2011, due to declining inmate populations, recently-elected governor Scott Walker shut down the two juvenile detention centers in southeastern Wisconsin, Ethan Allan home for boys and Southern Oaks girls schools, and consolidated all juvenile detention operations at the Lincoln Hills facility. At around the same time, Act 10 passed, cutting state workers’ salaries and benefits, including those working for the Department of Corrections.
At Lincoln Hills, that’s when all hell broke loose. With an influx of inmates from distant parts of the state, an overwhelmed, understaffed and poorly trained staff effectively lost control. Reports of abuse, beatings, and inhumane treatment, both of inmates as young as 13 and of Corrections staff began, the FBI raided the facility, and thousands of dollars in legal settlements have been paid. On January 4, Governor Scott Walker announced a plan to close Lincoln Hills / Copper Lake and to relocate juvenile detainees to five new, smaller facilities around the state.
Joining Eight O’Clock Buzz host Brian Standing by phone with reactions to the governor’s plan are Jeffery Roman, Benchmark Coordinator at the Public Policy Institute in Milwaukee and Sean Daley, Field Representative with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.