Governor Scott Walker is responding to claims that he waited too long to act on concerns about conditions at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons.
The governor announced last week that he wants to change the juvenile corrections system in the next state budget, moving offenders to five new regional facilities and into expanded treatment at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison. The move comes amid a federal investigation into allegations of abuse and violence at the facilities, along with complaints about the safety of staff there.
Critics have accused Walker of waiting until he’s running for re-election to propose changes to a system he knows has been facing problems for six years. During a stop in Athens Tuesday, Walker argued it was necessary to take some time to come up with a plan that will be a good fit for the state and will work. “We started looking over the last couple of years at other ways that other states provide those services,” he said. “We knew we weren’t just going to rush into something so we could say we were doing something different.”
Walker has also been under fire for proposing a plan that will take until at least the 2019 state budget to get started. He told reporters that he’s open to moving up that timeline, as long as there is somewhere for young offenders to go. He intends to address the next steps lawmakers can take in his upcoming State of the State address later this month.
Affiliate WSAU contributed to this report.