IRMA/MILWAUKEE -- There are new concerns about the Lincoln Hills School for Boys/Copper Lake School for Girls in Irma, under investigation for alleged abuse. The concerns come from top leaders in Milwaukee. They say they're afraid some young criminals may be released and go back to their criminal ways in Milwaukee, and there are also concerns these young people may be able to escape.
Last week, the Milwaukee County Board voted to approve $500,000 in emergency funding for an alternative to Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake. The unanimous vote on February 4th declared a state of emergency at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake facilities.
Chief Judge Maxine White issued a letter to the County Board suggesting possible Milwaukee County sites for juvenile offenders.
One would be juvenile beds placed at the Milwaukee County House of Correction. Another would be an expansion of a juvenile program currently housed at the former child adolescent treatment center on the Milwaukee County grounds -- not far from the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex. The mental health facility, considered outdated, is not itself under consideration to house the kids.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn have voiced their concerns about the plan for young offenders currently housed at Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake. Mayor Barrett and Chief Flynn say they are major stakeholders in this case, and they say no one is asking for their input.
"The Lincoln Hills fiasco is a man-made disaster and I don't want ramifications of that to affect public safety in Milwaukee and I'm very concerned about that," Mayor Barrett said.
As many as 170 juvenile offenders sent to Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake in Irma for rehabilitation and punishment, mostly from Milwaukee County, will return to Milwaukee County.
Milwaukee County is taking over the placement of these juvenile offenders following concerns about physical and sexual abuse by staff members.
The question that concerns Chief Flynn and Mayor Barrett is -- where will these young people be housed?
"I am a little concerned that the county has decided to bring everybody home without consulting anyone who's affected by the crimes these young people commit," Chief Flynn said.
Chief Flynn and Mayor Barrett say they're major players in the battle against crime in Milwaukee, and they say they're not part of this plan.
They say carjackings and other crimes committed by teens are on the increase here in Milwaukee.
There is concern that some of these young offenders will be placed in low-security group homes in Milwaukee neighborhoods.
"They claim all will be well. All I know is when I'm standing in front of the cameras dealing with carjacking-related violence, they're not going to be with me -- so I would be eager as the mayor indicated before to be part of any conversations that has to do with how we confront this serious problem and do right by juveniles, but also do right by the victims," Chief Flynn said.
Mayor Barrett said he will be meeting with Milwaukee County officials on Wednesday, February 10th about the Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake situation, and he will have more to say after that meeting.