Act 185

New Juvenile Facility​

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 These committee have accomplished their tasks and are no longer active.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:

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 facility.

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 the fund the proposed four SRCCCY sites to be built in Dane, Brown, Racine and Milwaukee counties. Their amended approval increased grant award total to counties to $110.96 million. 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.​​

Type 1 Facility

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 commitmEach Type 1 facility will be designed to serve approximately 32 youth and will employ approximately 70 employees. 

Each Type 1 facility will be designed to serve approximately 32 youth and will employ approximately 107.5 FTE employees. 

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.



Secure Residential Care Center for Children and Youth (SRCCCY)

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. 

Timeline for new Type 1 Facility in Milwaukee

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 will seek the appropriate permitting approvals from the local governing bodies. 

Step 8. Public Listening Session (2019 Act 8)

2019 Act 8 included a mandate that the DOC must notice at least seven days in advance a public listening session. 

Step 9.  SBC Approval (normal)

When a site is selected and 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 will submit the project for bid to seek contractors to construct the new building. This 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 FAQs

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 70 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 SRCCCY's in WI.  Act 185 funded and operationalized SRCCCYs.  In 2020, 4 counties were awarded funding to construct new SRCCCY's. Racine was the only county to formally accept their grant funds in 2020.

Helpful Links

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



New Facility​ Renderings