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“A long time coming:” Announcement to close Lincoln Hills gets bipartisan support

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Scott Walker

MILWAUKEE -- Governor Scott Walker announced Thursday, January 4th, a plan to close youth prison Lincoln Hills in 2018. Democrats say it's what they've been pushing for a very long time.

The Governor wants to move more than 160 young people out of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, and into five regional facilities next year. Democrats are on board with the changes, they just want to see them immediately.

"I was actually ecstatic," said Sharlen Moore with Youth Justice Milwaukee.  "At a point, I was like 'wait, is this real?"

Lincoln Hills

It is not the news Sharlen Moore expected, but can't wait to see happen.

Sharlen Moore

"It's been a long time coming," Moore said.

Moore has been fighting for a closure of Lincoln Hills, after reported abuse and is a founding member of Youth Justice Milwaukee.

"We want to make sure these, call them institutions, are small and therapeutic and they need to be located where the need is the greatest," Moore said.

Moore works with young people at the Urban Underground, some who have spent time at Lincoln Hills.

Lincoln Hills

"It's not really great influences there," said Termaine Roberson, spent time at Lincoln Hills.

Termaine Roberson

Termaine Roberson spent three years at the facility.

"I'm just hoping that they put it to whereas the kids are safer on the inside, they can obtain knowledge on the inside and they are actually treated as kids who has a family," Roberson said.

While some Democrats question the timing of the governor's announcement, they are happy to move forward -- but they want to see changes immediately.

"I don't know if we can wait that long because the situation is so dire," said state Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee.

David Bowen

Republicans contend changes take time.

"Could it have happened more quickly? I wish it did. It's happening now. That's a good thing," said state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc.

Representative Joel Kleefisch

No matter the timing, those who have been there just want to see a safer environment.

"I'm hoping the facilities are built on redirection," said Roberson.

166 inmates remain at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake -- down about 40 percent from two years ago.

Youth Justice Milwaukee, says they would like to see community input so past mistakes are not repeated.

Lincoln Hills

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