MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- Milwaukee County officials on Wednesday, March 9th met to discuss what to do as it relates to the embattled Lincoln Hills School for Boys/Copper Hills School for Girls in Irma, Wisconsin. The youth prison is under federal investigation due to allegations of abuse.
One thing that came out of the meeting of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors "Health and Human Needs" committee is that the answer in this case is complicated.
But committee members are committed to meeting until a solution is found.
"This is really, really hard with a lot of challenges and complexities," Hector Colon, Milwaukee County Health & Human Services director said.
Colon provided Milwaukee County Board committee members with a progress report on efforts to address the dysfunction at Lincoln Hills, which currently has 140 young people from Milwaukee County.
"Not all of these kids needs to be in a facility," Colon said.
Milwaukee County officials are looking to move 68 young people to facilities in Milwaukee County, which would include expanded capacity at the Child and Adolescent Treatment Center.
"Right now there's nothing in the code or statute that gives us the ability to do something like we're doing. We're trying to approach it as a pilot. And I feel we've gotten some encouraging signals," Colon said.
Colon has also been tasked with exploring whether serious youth offenders can be housed at the House of Correction.
Currently, six Milwaukee County workers have been hired to address the needs of children at Lincoln Hills.
"We've gone up there a few times when the school has been closed. We've gone up there with kids continuing to make allegations of maltreatment," Tom Wanta, Delinquency and Court Services director said.
"I think Lincoln Hills is a serious flaw in our justice system," Chief Judge Maxine White said.
Judge White said judges are trying to work with this, realizing the children deserve the services taxpayers are paying for, and the public deserves to be safe.
"We have imposed new standards on ourselves that we don't have to do. We're asking for reviews. We're demanding with court orders that we get to see them," White said.
Kids are still being sentenced to Lincoln HIlls.
Judge White said that is simply because judges don't have a necessary alternative in some cases.
Milwaukee County officials will continue to discuss this issue and look for facilities for young people currently housed at Lincoln Hills, which could eventually be multiple smaller facilities that address their behavioral, educational and mental health needs.