Democrats urge DOC to seek funds for youth prison amid budget impasse

By: Molly Beck, Wisc News 

With a state budget more than two weeks late and no deal in sight, Democratic lawmakers are urging prison officials to seek new money to make changes at the state’s youth prison now instead of waiting for a budget agreement.

The four Democrats on the Legislature’s budget-writing committee sent a letter Monday to Department of Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher asking him to request money that has already been recommended by the committee to be included in the 2017-19 state budget.

The funds would be used to address changes to operations and staffing at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, which is the subject of four federal lawsuits and a two-year investigation over abuse allegations.

“The Legislature has failed to meet the July 1 budget deadline, and because of that, positions are not posted, policies are not changed, and program expansions are stalled,” the letter said. “While Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans work to resolve their budget impasse, we are asking you to seek remedy outside of the budget process for the juvenile corrections policies contained in the budget.”

The letter was signed by Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, and Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, who sit on the Joint Finance Committee.