Act 185

Act 185 Overview

2017 Wisconsin Act 185 ("Act 185") became law on March 31, 2018, and restructured Wisconsin's youth correctional system, impacting both state and county systems, including how and where they can incarcerate youth who are adjudicated delinquent. There are several major provisions that mandate action in Act 185. Below is a high-level summary of some key components of the law:

High-Level Summary of Key Components of the Law

  1. Provided authority to the DOC to seek approval from the Joint Committee on Finance (JCF) to build new, secure youth facilities (known as a Type 1 facility) that would be operated by the DOC, and house youth convicted and sentenced under the Serious Juvenile Offender (SJO) disposition and those convicted as adults.

  2. Funded and operationalized Secure Residential Care Centers for Children and Youth (SRCCCYs). It provided the authority for counties to build and operate a SRCCCY for youth who are found delinquent of an act that would be punishable by a sentence of six months or more if committed by an adult, and that youth are found to be a danger to the public and in need of restrictive custodial treatment.

  3. Authorized the DOC to develop administrative rules to provide oversight similar to county jail facilities for SRCCCYs.

  4. Provided the authority to the Department Health Services (DHS) to seek funding approval by the JCF to expand their current secure youth facility to also treat girls. Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC) is a secure mental health treatment facility that treats boys who have been clinically diagnosed as appropriate for intensive mental health care and who have not responded to services and treatment at Lincoln Hills School.

Funding Appropriated for Wisconsin's Youth Correctional System under Act 185
The original bill provided funding to cover some of the costs of new construction. The original language in 2017 Act 185 authorized DOC and DHS to seek approval from JCF to fund:
  • $25 million for new DOC Type 1 facilities
  • $15 million for MJTC expansion
  • $40 million for a new grant program for counties to build new SRCCCY facilities

Bipartisan committees to develop proposals regarding youth justice in Wisconsin

Act 185 created two bipartisan committees to develop recommendations for consideration to DOC and JCF. These committee have accomplished their tasks and are no longer active. Below is a summary of their key responsibilities and links to their meeting details:

ACTIONS taken thus far

History of Act 185 Action Steps

Since the passage of Act 185 in 2018, additional pieces of legislation have impacted the available funding to build new Type 1 facilities and the process for implementing Act 185. Below is a chronological summary of action taken by the Legislature that impacts Act 185, and more specifically, the ability for the DOC to comply with the requirements to close LHS/CLS set forth in the law.

1) 2017 Act 185 appropriated funding to the DOC, DHS, and awarded counties. State agencies are required to seek approval from JCF before they can do anything with those funds.

$25 million was specifically appropriated for new Type 1 facilities with the acknowledgment that this funding would fall short and action would need to be taken in the next legislative session.

2) During the 2019-21 budget process, the governor proposed an additional $90 million (+ the $25 million in Act 185 for a total of $115 million) in funding for the construction of two new Type 1 facilities.

3) In the 2019-21 budget, the Legislature removed all funding (including the original $25 million in funding approved in Act 185) for any Type 1 facilities.

4) In October 2019, DOC, DHS, and DCF submitted a request to JCF, as required by Act 185. DOC submitted a proposal to seek approval of two new Type 1 facilities in Milwaukee and Hortonia.

DHS submitted its proposal for approval for the MJTC expansion.

Both DOC and DCF submitted the recommendations from the bipartisan Juvenile Corrections Grant Committee for funding four new SRCCCYs in Dane, Brown, Milwaukee, and Racine counties.

5) On February 12, 2020, JCF declined to fund any new Type 1s or the MJTC expansion (MJTC expansion funds were later approved by JCF on May 5, 2021). As a result of the decision, DOC was forced to halt any further planning for the construction of new Type 1s.

JCF did vote to fund the proposed four SRCCCY sites to be built in Dane, Brown, Racine and Milwaukee counties. Their amended approval increased the grant award for counties to $110.96 million combined. While approving other counties' full requests, JCF reduced Milwaukee County's proposed funding by $8.4 million.

6) In his 2021-23 budget, the governor proposed $46 million to fund one new Type 1 Facility in Milwaukee County.

7) In the final 2021-23 budget, the funding for a new Type 1 facility was reduced to $4 million dollars for design and site acquisition.

The State Building Commission, in February 2022, released $2.4M to continue work on project development, site selection and assessment, and design of a new Type 1 in Milwaukee County.

8) Signed in early April 2022, 2021 Act 252 appropriated an additional $41 million in funding for a new Type 1 in Milwaukee County.

For a summarized overview of the history of Act 185, please view this History of Act 185 presentation

9) 2023 Capital Budget Proposals and Legislative Actions 

DOC and Governor Evers continue to request the funding necessary to implement all components of Act 185, including funding to build new Type 1 facilities and expanding capacity  at current sites. Below are the 2023 Capital Budget requests made, with the action taken by the Legislature. It is important to note the ability for the DOC to comply with the requirements to close LHS/CLS set forth in the law is dependent on receiving the necessary funding.

 1. Additional Funding for Type 1 Youth Facility - Milwaukee — APPROVED  

Funding Request: $32,609,000 

Location: West Clinton Avenue, Milwaukee

Due to the original estimate being completed in 2017, DOC requested an updated amount after local government approvals were complete. The new cost estimate accounts for inflation and significant increases in labor costs, consistent with nationwide cost increases. The facility is still on track and DOC projects a completion date of 2026.

 2. Second Type 1 Youth Facility – Dane County — MODIFIED  

Funding Request: $83,000,000  — $6,000,000 IN FUNDS FOR PLANNING APPROVED  

Proposed Location: Dane County, utilizing DOC land that lies within Fitchburg and Oregon, Wisconsin near the Grow Academy, Oregon Correctional Center, and Bureau of Correctional Enterprises Farm Campus.

Act 185 envisioned multiple, smaller Type 1 youth correctional facilities operated by Wisconsin DOC, coupled with county-run SRCCCYs to keep youth closer to home and family/community support systems. It also envisioned using state-owned land where possible for new Type 1 youth facilities and choosing locations in geographic locations reflective of the DOC’s youth population. With Milwaukee and Dane counties having the highest number of youth in custody, a second location in Dane County will allow DOC to keep youth close to home and connect them to resources in their communities prior to their release. DOC has set a project completion goal date of 2029. 

 3. Exploration of a third Type 1 Facility – Northeastern WI — NOT APPROVED  

Funding Request: $4,000,000 

Location: To Be Determined, likely in the Northeastern portion of Wisconsin.

Act 185 envisioned 3 Type 1 facilities and a number of smaller, county-based sites. In order to fully embrace a regionalized model and keep youth close to home, DOC would explore the option of building a third smaller facility in the Northeastern portion of the state.

 4. Grow Academy Expansion — NOT APPROVED  

Funding Request: $24,900,000 

Location: Oregon, Wisconsin

The Grow Academy is a residential program offering comprehensive treatment for County and State-supervised youth as an alternative to incarceration, as well as a step down for youth returning to the community. Funding would allow DOC to expand the Grow Academy, from a 6-bed facility to a 16-bed facility.

 5. Lincoln Hills School and Copper Lake School (LHS/CLS) HVAC Improvements — APPROVED  

Funding Request: $5.7 million

Location: LHS/CLS, Irma, Wisconsin

With the additional smaller, regionalized Type 1 facilities, DOC plans to close LHS/CLS and transition the site to a minimum-custody adult facility. Funding will allow DOC to begin necessary improvements to the site in preparation for that transition.

The Roadmap Forward

DOC and Governor Evers will continue working to implement all components of Act 185, including building new Type 1 facilities and closing LHS/CLS. When Act 185 passed, it envisioned 3 Type 1 facilities and a number of smaller, county-run SRCCCYS. The Wisconsin Model laid out in Act 185 embraced a regionalized approach and keeping youth close to home. LHS/CLS is geographically isolated, making it extremely difficult for youth there to maintain relationships with their community and families back home. The current evidence and best practice say maintaining those relationships is a key component to reducing recidivism and keeping youth from entering the adult criminal justice system.  To accomplish these goals, DOC envisions the following:

Build 3 New, Smaller Facilities Using Regionalized Approach to Keep Youth Close to Home

Type 1 Facility in Milwaukee

Delayed by legislative approval, DOC's plan for a new Type 1 facility in Milwaukee is about two years behind the counties and their SRCCCYs plans. DOC finally received funding in 2022 to move forward with a new state-run juvenile correctional facility in Milwaukee. Land was approved on West Clinton Avenue, and design is now finalized. DOA is working on bids for the project and the facility is on track to break ground in the summer of 2024, with a project completion date in 2026.

This 32-bed facility embraces the regional model, given that most of the youth in our care come to DOC from Milwaukee County.

Type 1 Facility in Dane County

Using DOC land near the Grow Academy, Oregon Correctional Center, and Bureau of Correctional Enterprises Farm Campus, DOC strives to build another, smaller secure facility. DOC envisions a facility similar in size and design to that of the Milwaukee County facility, approximately doubling the number of beds statewide for youth. The location in Dane County would allow DOC to continue with a regional approach reflective of DOC's youth population. Milwaukee and Dane Counties have the highest number of youth in DOC custody. A location in Dane County will allow youth to stay closer to home during their commitment.

Early guidance after passage of Act 185, per the selection committee included a focus on land already owned by the State of Wisconsin, as well as proximity to families and community resources. Maintaining connections with family has been shown to have an impact on recidivism. Other considerations include a nearby workforce, transportation accessibility, and local community resources.

DOC is in the planning stages for design of this facility, and will need the legislatures approval of funding to complete this vision and meet our completion goal date of 2029. 

Type 1 Facility in Northern Wisconsin
Type 1 facilities in Milwaukee and Dane County may not hold enough beds to close Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake schools, therefore DOC would like to explore the possibility of a third facility.  While an exact location is unclear, DOC envisions this third facility in the northern portion of the state. Any new Type 1 facility built in northern Wisconsin would be similar in size to the one being planned for Milwaukee.

 Funding is necessary to explore this need further.

Expand the Grow Academy

The Grow Academy is a residential program offering comprehensive treatment for County and State-supervised youth as an alternative to incarceration as well as a step down for youth returning to the community. The Grow Academy offers an agriculture-based educational curriculum, cognitive development programming, career exploration, case management services including individual and family counseling services, tele-psychiatry and other identified treatment needs, as well as engagement in community partnerships to strengthen the youth's transition back to the community. Over the past 10 years Wisconsin has lost over 300 residential care beds so there is a great need for additional non-secure residential beds.

DOC envisions expanding the Grow Academy from a 6-bed facility to a 16-bed facility, allowing the agency to offer the Academy's evidence-based programming to more youth.

Implement Evidenced-Based Youth Best Practices

Each facility will reflect national best practices in juvenile facility design, and support DOC's mission of providing the youth in our care the opportunity for positive change through education and treatment. Over the past several years, our administration has worked to move away from a punitive correctional model into an evidence-based youth practices at our youth facilities.

Close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools and Convert to an Adult Facility

Once the current youth population is relocated from LHS/CLS, it will close as a youth facility and transition into an adult correctional institution. The facility in Irma is designed to house roughly 400 people and would greatly increase bed space in the adult system.


Act 185 requires that the DOC build one or more new Type 1 facilities. The DOC currently operates a Type 1 facility, a secure facility that treats youth convicted and sentenced under the Serious Juvenile Offender (SJO) disposition, youth waived to adult court, youth convicted as adults, and certain youth with juvenile county commit.

Each Type 1 facility will be designed to serve approximately 32 youth.

Type 1 Youth Placement Process

Wisconsin Statute Chapter 938 defines youth justice in Wisconsin. By the decision of a judge, there are three ways that a minor can be sent to a Type 1 facility, under the care of the DOC:

Circuit Court decision made by a Judge

Change of Placement (COP)

Wis. Stat. Chap. 938.357(3) & (4)

Change of Placement (COP)Wis. Stat. Chap. 938.357(3) & (4)A juvenile court can change a youth's placement from a SRCCCY to a Type 1 facility if: 1) no SRCCCY is willing to accept that youth, or 2) there is no SRCCCY space available to accept the youth, therefore requiring placement at a Type 1 facility.

Serious Juvenile Offender Program (SJO)

Wis. Stat. Chap. 938.34(4h)

A minor is adjudicated for certain violent offenses defined under the statute and is therefore required to be placed in a Type 1 facility.

Adult Sentenced Minor (ASW)

Wis. Stat. Chap. 938.183

A minor convicted and sentenced by the adult criminal court to serve a prison sentence. The minor will serve out their sentence at a Type 1 facility while under the age of 18. Once they turn 18, they are transferred to an adult institution within the DOC.


Act 185 funded and operationalized SRCCCYs, therefore allowing a county or tribal nation to establish a SRCCCY for youth under the care of the county. Youth are placed in SRCCCYs under Correctional Placement dispositions (Wis. Stat. Chp. 938.34(4m)), which requires that the youth be found delinquent of an act that would be punishable by a sentence of six months or more if committed by an adult and that youth has been found to be a danger to the public and in need of restrictive custodial treatment.

Act 185 mandated that the DOC promulgate administrative rules to govern the operation of SRCCCYs and provide oversight similarly to the model of administrative oversight provided to county jails. The DOC's Office of Detention Facilities (ODF) is the entity responsible for the regulation and oversight of local detention facilities, including the SRCCCYs. Administrative Rule 347 was officially promulgated in October 2021 and establishes minimum standards for the building and for the services, programming, and reporting requirements for counties to operate a SRCCCY.

Act 185 authorized funding through a grant program administered by the DOC for the construction of a new SRCCCYs located throughout Wisconsin. On October 2019, as required by Act 185, the Juvenile Corrections Grant Committee (JCGC) submitted its recommendations to award funds to four counties: Brown, Dane, Milwaukee and Racine - to build new SRCCCYs. On February 12, 2020, the Joint Committee on Finance amended the recommendations and awarded a total of $110.96 million to the four counties, reducing Milwaukee County's award by $8.4 million.

In August 2020, Dane County responded, declining their grant award, Brown County indicated the proposed grant agreement did not meet the requirements set forth in their County Board's Resolution, and Milwaukee County requested to defer their acceptance. Racine County was the only county at the time to accept their award and move forward with establishing a SRCCCY.


Since the passage of 2017 Act 185, other laws have passed that have mandated additional steps prior to the construction of a new Type 1 Facility. These additional requirements also interact with the State of Wisconsin's established process for new construction. The State's established process for new construction projects includes a formal process for siting, planning, and building new construction that involves oversight by the Department of Administration (DOA), through the State Building Commission (SBC). 2019 Act 8 and 2021 Act 252 included additional approval requirements for the construction of a new Type 1 facility. Construction of a new facility is contingent upon all of these necessary approvals being completed prior to breaking ground. Delays in these additional approval requirements will add significantly to the timeline of this project. If a required approval fails, proceeding approval requirements and planning cannot move forward. A normal building construction project of similar size typically requires approximately five years from funding approval to breaking ground.

Below is a high-level summary of the sequence of requirements that the DOC must successfully accomplish before proceeding to the construction of a new Type 1 facility. The different colors of each step identifies whether it is part of the normal state building process, or if it was mandated by 2019 Act 8 or 2021 Act 252.

Act 185 Infographic - Timeline for a new Type 1 Facility. Steps are detailed below this image.

Step 1. Funding Approved (normal)

Passed in April 2021, 2021 Act 252 provided the necessary funding authorization to fully begin the process of finalizing the site selection, planning, and design of a new Type 1 facility in Milwaukee County.

Step 2. Site Evaluations (normal)

The DOC, in partnership with the DOA, reviewed multiple locations in Milwaukee County as a potential site for a new Type 1 facility utilizing the criteria developed by the bipartisan Juvenile Corrections Study Committee.

Step 3. Proposed Site Selection (normal)

7930 West Clinton Avenue, in the City of Milwaukee, has been selected as the most viable site for a new Type 1 facility.

Step 4. Local Governing Body Support for Site Selection (2021 Act 252)

2021 Act 252 included a mandate that requires support of the governing body of the municipality where the selected site is located.

Step 5. DOA Approval (2021 Act 252)

2021 Act 252 mandated that the DOA may not approve plans for constructing a new Type 1 facility without community support for site selection.

Step. 6 Report to JCF (2021 Act 252)

2021 Act 252 mandated that the DOA must submit a report to the JCF after reviewing and approving plans.

Step 7. Plan/Zoning/City Approval Process (normal)

The DOC continues to seek the appropriate permitting approvals from the local governing bodies. As of December 16, 2022, the proposal has passed the Granville Advisory Committee, and the City Plan Commission. The City of Milwaukee’s Zoning, Development & Neighborhood Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on January 10, 2023, and then it will require a Common council vote. Please see the Public Engagement section for more information regarding these committees.

Step 8. (7b) Public Listening Session (2019 Act 8)

Due to the timing of the local process, which is not under the control of the DOC, Step 8 occurred simultaneously to Step 7.  State Legislators and the DOC have held several public listening sessions which were noticed in compliance with 2019 Act 8. The local process only required that the DOC hold one meeting, however due to the lack of local representation, the DOC held three public listening sessions and an environmental assessment meeting, additionally the local jurisdictional state legislators held two public meetings. Please see the Public Engagement section for more information regarding these committees.

Step 9. SBC Approval (normal)

The State Building Commission approval process is two-fold. The first request was for the land purchase at Clinton Avenue which was approved on February 3, 2023. Once planning and design are at or near completion, the DOA will submit a design report for approval from the SBC and request authority to construct

Step 10. Finalize Design (normal)

Once the plan is approved by the SBC, the DOA works with the DOC to ensure all details of the design are finalized in preparation to put out the formal bid.

Step 11. Bid the Project (normal)

The DOA has submitted the project for bid to seek contractors to construct the new building. Bids are due May 22. The process will follow established DOA rules.

Step 12. Begin Construction (normal)

Once the bid process is completed, a contractor has been selected, and the contracts are finalized, the state can break ground at the selected site to begin construction.


Act 185

What is a Type 1 facility?

A youth may be placed in a Type 1 secure youth correctional facility if a court gives the youth a Serious Juvenile Offender Program (SJOP) disposition or a correctional placement disposition. A youth may receive one of these dispositions only if they commit certain offenses and the court makes specific findings. Type 1 facilities are operated and staffed by the state of Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

How many Type 1 facilities does WI currently have?

There are currently three Type 1 facilities in WI. The DOC operates two Type 1 secure youth facilities which houses boys at Lincoln Hills and girls at Copper Lake Schools (LHS/CLS). They are located on one campus in Lincoln County. The Department of Health Services (DHS) also operates a Type 1 secure youth facility in Dane County that houses boys at Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC). DHS; Type 1 facility is a secure mental health treatment facility that houses boys who do not respond to the rehabilitation services provided at the DOC. Construction is underway at the MJTC campus to expand the facility to also house girls.

How was it decided to build new Type 1 facilities?

Enacted in 2018, Act 185 requires the Department of Corrections to build new Type 1 facilities as part of the effort to close LHS/CLS. Please see the Act 185 overview section for more detail.

When will the youth from Lincoln Hills be transferred to one of the new facilities?

Youth at Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake will be transferred out of the facility as soon as an appropriate facility is constructed and adequate services are available for the youth.

Will the youth from Lincoln Hills eventually be transferred to the facility closest to their family?

The goal is to have the ability to transfer youth to the facility closest to their family and/or support system.

How many youth will the new Type 1 facilities hold?

Each Type 1 facility will be designed to serve approximately 32 youth.

How many will be employed in the new Type 1 facilities?

Each Type 1 facility is expected to employ approximately 107 employees.

When is the DOC going to close Lincoln Hills?

LHS/CLS will close when there is sufficient space to house both boys and girls under the care of the DOC in new Type 1 facilities. The DOC will provide regular updates to staff, the community and other stakeholders as the process moves forward. When Act 252 passed in spring 2021, the Legislature added language mandating that when the LHS/CLS could close, it shall then be repurposed into an adult correctional facility.

Why is it taking so long to close Lincoln Hills?

Even though the Legislature mandated that LHS/CLS close by July 1, 2021, LHS/CLS cannot close until there is sufficient space in new facilities. Funding for a Type 1 was not approved by the Legislature until April 2022. The DOC could not take any action without first having the funding approved for a new facility. A new facility cannot be built until siting, various approvals by local government(s), the Legislature, DOA, and the State Building Commission are completed. Once those approvals are completed planning, design, and construction would need to occur. The typical state construction process takes several years, and the legislature included additional steps to build a new Type 1 facility, extending the timeline further.

What's the difference between a Type 1 facility and a SRCCCY?

A Type 1 facility is operated by the state. A youth will be treated by the state in a Type 1 facility when a judge determines that a youth should be sentenced under the Serious Juvenile Offender (SJO) disposition, or if a youth is waived to adult court and is convicted as an adult. Please see the link on Type 1 Facilities for more information.

A Secure Residential Care Centers for Children and Youth (SRCCCYs) is a county run facility. As of August 2022, there are no SRCCCYs operating in the state. Racine County is actively constructing its new SRCCCY. Please see the link on SRCCCYs for more information.

How many SRCCCY's are located in WI?

There are currently no SRCCCYs in WI. Act 185 funded and operationalized SRCCCYs. In 2020, 4 counties were awarded funding to construct new SRCCCYs. Racine was the only county to formally accept their grant funds in 2020.

Youth Programming & Juvenile Justice

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is the primary treatment for all youth under the care of the Division of Juvenile Corrections (DJC.) DBT is an evidenced based cognitive behavioral therapy designed to help youth who struggle to control their emotions and behaviors. For more information, please review our Overview of Youth Programs & Services Overview.

Will you allow faith-based groups inside of the new facilities?

DJC currently provides faith-based groups the opportunity to volunteer and will continue to provide this opportunity at any new facilities. For more information, please review our Overview of Youth Programs & Services Overview.

Will you have programs for families of youth in the new facilities

With the facility being in close proximity to where the majority of youth live, programing was designed with families in mind and will be more accessible for families and caregivers of youth. Examples of programs will include family therapy during visiting hours, parenting groups, and high school graduation ceremonies.

Will you have job readiness training in the new facilities

The Department of Corrections (DOC) is designing the new facility with classrooms dedicated to career technical education. For more information about programming, please review our Overview of Youth Programs & Services Overview.. Career technical education at the new facility will be developed based upon market needs.

Will you provide transportation for families to the new facilities?

There is currently transportation during certain times available for families of youth at Lincoln Hills Schools and Copper Lake Schools (LHS/CLS). Building a new facility in Milwaukee was intentional in order to bring our kids closer to home. With public transportation nearby and in close proximity to families, it will lessen the barrier of getting to the facility for many families.

How do you know the programs you will provide at the new facilitieswill work?

All of the programs and services provided to youth are based on research and evidence shown to have success in other youth facilities and jurisdictions around the country. We consult regularly with national experts to ensure our programming follows best practices and national standards.

Do you provide programming when a youth leaves the new facilities?

For State supervised youth, the DJC provides intensive case management and programming for youth once they leave the facility. For county supervised youth, the facility continues to provide consultative support. For example, facility therapists will work with a youth's new therapist and provide a warm hand-off to that person.

What types of programming will you have at the new facilities?

All programming provided at DJC facilities are evidence-based and treatment focused. For more information, please review our Overview of Youth Programs & Services Overview.

Building Design

How secure will the new Milwaukee facility be?

A Type 1 youth facility is a maximum-security secure setting. Staff are monitoring the facility 24/7/365. Youth never exit the secure perimeter without an escort. All visitors require background checks and must be pre-approved and scheduled.

Will there be fencing and what will it look like?

The facility is completely secured by the building itself and a proposed 16-foot wall that matches the facade of the front and sides of the building around the recreational space outside. In addition, there will be a 6-foot fence at the border of the property. Youth are outside at set times and staff will always be outside with them. Youth will never be outside of the secure perimeter unless they are being transported with an approved escort.

Will there be enough parking for people at the new Milwaukee facility?

The new building will have approximately 100 parking spaces. This will be enough space for employee parking and shift changes, as well as visitors.

Will youth have a place to go outside at the new  Milwaukee facility?

Within the secure perimeter wall, there are plans for a recreational space. Please refer to the renderings section to see a visual.

How will visitation work? Will it increase traffic in the area?

Visitors coming to the secure facility must go through a background check and be pre-approved prior to visitations. Additionally, visitation is scheduled at set times and will not include all youth at the same time. Typically, visitation happens 2 times per week or may be scheduled on an individual basis with families.

Are there plans to expand the new Milwaukee facility beyond 32 youth?

There are no plans to expand this or any other new youth facility beyond 32. The available science indicates that is the maximum amount for a facility focused on treatment and rehabilitation of youth in the criminal justice system..

What does a bedroom look like for a youth staying there?

Each bedroom will be single occupancy only. The bedroom will have a single bed, a sink and a toilet. Other amenities in each bedroom may include a mirror, places for youth to hang up pictures, artwork, etc.

Do you take any environmental considerations in the building design?

  • Revegetation will occur as part of landscaping with trees, plantings, and grassed areas.
  • Beneficial impact during building demolition by assessing and removing potentially hazardous materials: typical materials found are asbestos, lead-based paint, mold, mercury to be removed and properly disposed.
  • Accessible ramps, bike lanes, and bike racks to be extended to the facility as a benefit.
  • LED lighting throughout the facility.
  • Natural lighting included wherever possible.
  • We will have recycling containers throughout the facility.
  • We've extended sidewalks for more walkable areas.
  • There is a plan to utilize electric vehicles for maintenance and safety staff
  • Electric vehicle charging stations

What happens when the new Milwaukee facility reaches a capacity limit? Where will other youth go?

Act 185 required the DOC to build smaller, regional facilities. The proposed site in Milwaukee is the first. The DOC will continue to operate LHS/CLS until we have enough space at other smaller facilities located throughout the state. Also, as part of Act 185, the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC) added additional beds and counties received grants to build Secure Residential Care Center for Children and Youth.

How will the youth be transferred in and out of the new Milwaukee facility?

The DOC anticipates movement of youth from the new facility to occur about twice a month. A youth will never leave or enter our facility unescorted.

How was the location of this new Milwaukee facility selected?

Phase 1: DOC adopted the criteria per the Juvenile Corrections Study Committee created in 2017 Act 185. This includes items related to specific land considerations, nearby transportation options, proximity and accessibility, nearby workforce, and local community resources. DOC, based on those criteria, did a preliminary evaluation to identify potential locations for the Type 1 facility in Milwaukee County.

Phase 2: DOC selects a potential location based on their evaluation. DOA at the request of DOC also did a preliminary evaluation of the site, assessed it against other comparable sites, and determined the site's availability for direct sale.

Below are some of the key aspects of Clinton Avenue that were considered:

  • Proximity to Community Services: (Resources and medical services for youth available to the site)
  • Clinton Avenue is within .6 miles of Good Hope Pediatrics and Froedtert Good Hope Health Center.
  • Locational Attributes and Site Information: (Site has ready access to major transportation routes. Site is in close proximity to a bus line with regular bus service several times a day. Site has low level of both foot traffic and is not in or near residential area.)
  • The Clinton Avenue site is primarily surrounded by commercial businesses.
  • Nearby bus transit from 76th St, and near a major highway - I41
  • Not a lot of local foot traffic in the area, residential area is separated by a wooded area with no road or walking path connections.
  • Public and Municipal Services: (Site has municipal services)
  • The Clinton Avenue site does have municipal services already to the site.
  • No known environmental issues listed on the DNR BRRTS site.

Phase 3: Negotiations with DOA Real Estate team to purchase the property. Resulted in a signed agreement with the property owner with normal contingencies required of the property and 2021 Act 252 requirements; local community support, DOA approval, JFC report, and SBC approval to construct.

Why are the new proposed facilities so expensive? Why can't you invest this money in prevention and community programming instead?

2017 Act 185 requires the DOC to build smaller regional facilities and 2021 Act 252 appropriated the money for that reason, and so the funding must be used for a new facility. The administration will always support increasing funds for effective evidence-based programs and services and in the last two budgets we have proposed such increases. The legislature has removed those increases. Regardless, the DOC will continue to invest in programming that works.

Operations, Security & Employment

I've read about past abuses at LHS/CLS. How will the DOC prevent that from happening again at new facilities?

Since the start of the Evers administration, the DOC has been working to comply with the federal consent decree. The DOC is committed to transitioning juvenile corrections from a punitive correctional model to evidence-based treatment facilities. In addition, this administration is working hard to update and finalize the administrative codes which codify all aspects of the federal consent decree. It is anticipated that the administrative codes will be finalized prior to the new facility opening.

Will you hire residents to work at this Milwaukee facility?

The new facility will create a number of new positions in the community. Position openings will be open to anyone who meets the hiring qualifications and are able to complete our youth counselor academy.

How will you notify the local community about jobs at the new facilities?

Hiring for the new facility will not occur for several years, as the process for approval of the location is still underway. Recruitment for facility positions will include advertisements in local area news sources. It will also include local job fairs.

Can this project be put on hold?

There is current law requiring the development of a new Type 1 Juvenile facility in Milwaukee and the transition of LHS/CLS to an adult minimum custody facility.

I'm worried crime will increase and no one else will want to move in or do business in this area of Milwaukee because of the new facility.

There is no research to support that crime increases when new or existing secure facilities exist in urban settings.

I'm worried the facility will take critical police resources away from neighborhoods.

There have been 3 calls for service to LHS/CLS over the last 4 years, and the last call was more than one year ago. This administration works tirelessly to provide safety and security for both youth and staff. Because of the priority of treating youth with dignity, respect, and providing a treatment-based environment, there is rarely a need for outside law enforcement resources. The majority of engagement with law enforcement is scheduled and should not take away from the local resources.

Will the new Milwaukee facility house girls? If not, where to they go?

The proposed facility in Milwaukee will only house boys. Two locations where girls can reside currently include Copper Lake School for Girls, and once construction is completed in 2023, Mendota Treatment facility operated by the Department of Health Services.

What is the recidivism rate for youth in custody?

Because Wisconsin's Juvenile Justice System is primarily operated by local county governments, a statewide recidivism rate does not currently exist.

What will you do to ensure you'll increase diversity at the new facilities?

The current administration prioritizes the recruitment and retention of employees who reflect the youth we serve. Having the facility located in a diverse community and having local employee recruitment efforts exist in the area surrounding the facility, it is our belief that we will be able to increase the diversity significantly as compared to the current staff at LHS/CLS.

How do you hold staff accountable?

The DOC has extensive work rules to hold staff accountable. In addition, the facility will be guided by policies and procedures and all staff at the facility will be held accountable to those.


The DOC has participated and facilitated several community meetings and the City is also holding several public hearings in relation to the new youth facility. Below are links to summaries of meetings already held and links to the City’s website in relation to their public hearings.

Community Input & Public Listening Sessions: 11/16 and 11/19

Granville Development Advisory Committee: 12/7

City Plan Commission Public Hearing: 12/12

Zoning, Neighborhood, & Development Public Hearing: 1/10

Racine County Youth Development and Care Center

Milwaukee County Division of Youth and Family Services

Dane County Youth Justice

Brown County Youth Court System

Department of Children and Families

Department of Health Services; Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center

Lincoln Hills & Copper Lake Schools