Larson Report 

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A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

I hope you and your family are doing well and enjoying the New Year. Welcome to the first Larson Report newsletter of 2018. We’ll continue to keep you up-to-date on the last few months the legislature is in session. Right now, it appears the state senate will only meet three more times as a whole. That doesn’t leave much time to tackle many of the major problems facing our state. I have and will continue to bring up issues regarding our shared environment, education, opioids, marijuana, lead pipes, drunk driving, and access to health care. In the coming weeks, we’ll be ramping up pressure on those and other important issues like net neutrality and election reform.


In this week's newsletter we are focusing on the important issue of youth incarceration in Wisconsin; particularly, the crisis at Lincoln Hills School for boys and Copper Lake School for girls.


As always, keep an eye out below for additional news stories and exciting community activities happening in the district.

In Service, 



P.S. Save the date! There is one "Convo with Chris" left this month:

Friday, January 19
1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. 
Good City Brewing
2108 N Farwell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 Crisis in Youth Incarceration

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Signal of Change?
After years of creating and ignoring this crisis, Governor Walker announced last week that if he’s re-elected, he will recommend closing Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls and repurpose the buildings for adult populations in the 2019-2021 state budget. Though Governor Walker is finally taking a step forward by endorsing the proposals Representative Evan Goyke and I introduced as legislation, Senate Bills 651 and 70, his continued delay in taking no immediate action to address the serious allegations at the facilities meant to rehabilitate juvenile offenders is a continued failure to lead.


Walker’s move comes more than six years after he was notified of extensive problems happening at Lincoln Hills, three years after a criminal investigation of the facility, six months after a federal judge put restrictions on how Lincoln Hills operates, and a month after federal prosecutors notified two former guards they could be charged with crimes. For too long, Governor Walker and legislative Republicans have left Wisconsin children in danger and ignored the serious and disturbing abuse happening at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys. Kids at these schools have suffered physical and sexual abuse at a facility run by Governor Walker’s Department of Corrections. As such, it is outrageous that he is continuing to sit on his hands while our children remain in danger. Our kids deserve better and should not have to wait for the next governor and legislature for this problem to be solved.


In addition to closing Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, Wisconsin must do more to ensure our juvenile justice system does its best to turn lives around through real rehabilitative programing. Our state’s current model of locking up children is not working. Overpopulation, lack of individualized attention, and a reliance on punitive measures has led to tragic outcomes and unsustainable costs. Under the current system, the recidivism rate for incarcerated youth is alarmingly high. In fact, a 2017 report by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau found that the three-year recidivism rate for incarcerated youth in Wisconsin was 62.7%; this means that out of 432 youth released from Wisconsin detention centers, 271 were returned to the custody of the state. When young people in our community encounter the juvenile justice system, it is vital that we take an approach that will help these children to succeed upon release.


To this end, I have proposed and submitted legislation, Senate Bill 70, that would direct the Department of Corrections to study the effects of implementing the Missouri Model of youth incarceration in Wisconsin. The model advocates three main principals: creation of small housing facilities within the community so that parents have ready access to their children, development of long-term rehabilitation programs that allows youth offenders to remain in communication with case workers throughout and after incarceration, and increased educational standards which included expanded course credit offerings to ensure that adjudicated youth are able to complete their education while incarcerated. I remain dedicated to using data-driven models and best practices to offer our youth a real second chance.

Timeline of Crisis

For years, serious misconduct and abuse has been occurring at Lincoln Hills, as seen in this timeline:


February of 2011

  • Gov. Scott Walker recommends closing Ethan Allen School for Boys and Southern Oaks Girls School in southeastern Wisconsin and concentrating juvenile offenders to the Lincoln Hills School for Boys campus in northern Wisconsin
  • A Racine County judge sends a letter to Governor Walker expressing concern over handling of a sexual assault case at Lincoln Hills involving a youth from Racine County

June of 2014

  • American Psychological Association expresses concerns about the lack of intern supervision at Lincoln Hills

October of 2014

  • Milwaukee County public defender raises the alarm about numerous problems at Lincoln Hills, including physical assaults on youth
  • Wisconsin Department of Corrections begins an internal investigation of Lincoln Hills

November of 2014

  • Milwaukee County officials receive additional tips about youth injuries and that youth are not receiving required education

January of 2015

  • Wisconsin Department of Justice begins criminal investigation into Lincoln Hills at the request of the Department of Corrections
  • A Lincoln Hills corrections officer was put on leave for altercations in which youths were injured
  • Revelations surface about the former Lincoln Hills Chief psychologist not being disciplined for making inappropriate comments regarding a female youth

March of 2015

  • One employee fired for excessive use of force and three others put on paid leave

August of 2015

  • Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall visits Lincoln Hills and speak with youth

October of 2015

  • Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department recommends child abuse charges against a Lincoln Hills guard
  • John Doe investigation is opened to investigate possible criminal activity at Lincoln Hills

November of 2015

  • Lincoln Hills guard slams cell door on youth’s foot, resulting in $300,000 settlement

December of 2015

  • State juvenile corrections administrators abruptly retire
  • Lincoln Hills School for Boys raided by federal agents

February of 2016

  • Lincoln hills guard fired after physical altercation with youth
  • Department of Corrections Secretary, Ed Wall, resigns

March of 2016

  • U.S. Department of Justice begins investigation into a pattern of civil rights violations at Lincoln hills

May of 2016

  • Internal Department of Corrections investigation concludes that staff had been trained to use abusive techniques for years

December of 2016

  • Governor Walker attempts to shift state responsibilities to Milwaukee County by asking local taxpayers to cover the cost of a state youth offender facility

January of 2016

  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) files suit against the department of Corrections on behalf of youth offenders

June of 2017

  • Federal Judge issues an order setting instructions of what the state of Wisconsin must do as well as issuing a timeline for actions

December of 2017

  • Two Lincoln Hills guards are informed that they may face federal prosecution

January of 2018

  • Governor Walker announces a future plan to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake and repurpose those facilities for the adult corrections population  


Take Action


In order to protect Wisconsin’s youth, I need your help.


The legislation that Representative Evan Goyke and I created needs to heard in a public hearing to speed the process of closing Lincoln Hills along.


Please call or email Senator Duey Stroebel at 608-266-7513 ( and ask that he schedule a public hearing to discuss Senate Bill 651. 

In Case You Missed It

Each week, the Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to you. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison and our Wisconsin communities. I want to make sure you know the most pressing issues facing our neighborhoods across the state. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks.


  • Walker is proposing education funding ideas that he vetoed out of the state budget just four months ago. Specifically, Scott Walker backs a plan to increase money for cash poor school districts just months after signing a budget that ignored this very plan. Despite spending a record high of $76 billion in his latest overall budget, our kids were not a priority and still fell short of funding levels just before Walker took office. By intentionally denying them adequate and equitable funding for their education, Republicans in control of our state continue to fail our children and put their future in jeopardy. Our state’s commitment to our neighborhood schools has plummeted. In fact, with the passage of the 2017-2019 budget, Wisconsin dropped below the national average in per-child funding. Click here to read more about this critical issue.

  • Election Commission Chair Mark Thomsen calls out Senator Fitzgerald for his refusal to hold a public hearing on the nomination of the agency's administrator. Specifically Thomsen has said, “the fact that Mr. Fitzgerald wants to fire him without even a hearing after the commission he created asked for a hearing shows just how desperate the leaders of the Republican party have become.” Despite the lack of a hearing, the position of Administrator and Deputy Administrator will be up for a vote next week. I have heard from my neighbors, seen the unanimous support from the bi-partisan election commission and plan to vote to confirm them. See more in this article.


  • Wisconsin lawmakers call for quick action to protect workers, residents from barrel refurbishing plants. After hearing the concerns of our neighbors regarding the Milwaukee-area Mid-America Steel Drum refurbishing plants, Representative Christine Sinicki and I believe immediate action is necessary to protect the health and property of residents living and working close to these facilities. Recently, news broke that the air pollution and hazardous waste complaints against Mid-America Steel Drum Company, owned by Greif, Inc., were referred by the state DNR to the Wisconsin DOJ for possible prosecution, this is an important step in safeguarding our communities. Read my press release to learn more.

Events in the Community

Supporting our neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and your family are listed below. 


Winter Gallery Night at MIAD
Friday, January 19, 5 – 9 p.m.

Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
273 E. Erie Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Admission is free

Humanly Possible: The Empathy Exhibition is on view in our Frederick Layton Gallery through March 3, and aims to foster empathy in spite of our current divisive social and political landscapes. This exhibit is sponsored by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund. ***Winter Gallery Night is the Opening Reception of this exhibit.

CHAIR^5: Perspectives on Form, Function and Innovation is on view in our Brooks Stevens Gallery through March 3, and introduces myriad ways to think about chairs, “chairness” and the physical act of sitting. Five distinctive exhibit spaces showcase historic, reproduction and contemporary seating furniture forms. This exhibit is co-produced by MIAD and the Chipstone Foundation.



A Cappella with The Transit Vocal Band featuring Adam Lee Decker plus Fundamentally Sound
South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center
Jan 20, 2018 at 07:30 pm - 10:00 pm (Sat)
Ticket prices start at $19 in advance for students and seniors. Family packages are available. Children under 4 are free (with free ticket).

A Cappella Concert presenting Transit featuring Adam Lee Decker (finalist American Idol, America’s Got Talent, 2017 ICCA Outstanding Soloist) plus UW’s award winning Fundamentally Sound
Come enjoy the amazing a cappella artistry of The Transit Vocal Band featuring Adam Lee Decker. Decker’s unique talents and four and a half octave range rocketed him into finalist slots on both American Idol and America’s Got Talent. Decker was also named 2017 ICCA Outstanding Soloist.



Winterfest at Boerner Botanical Gardens
January 21 @ 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Boerner Botanical Gardens
9400 Boerner Drive
Hales Corners, WI 53130
Conquer your cabin fever with: Winter nature walks Indoor and outdoor games and activities Hot drinks Family fun! FREE admission; $5 suggested donation for winter nature walks Event held in the Boerner Visitor Center Call 414-525-5661 for more information Concessions available from Zilli Hospitality.



Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market
Now through April 14
Market Hours: 9:00am to 1:00pm

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory
524 S. Layton Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53215

The Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market is operated by the Fondy Food Center. The mission of the Fondy Food Center is to connect neighborhoods to fresh, local food - from farm to market to table. We do our work by operating 3 farmers markets, a farm, and coordinating a local farmers market coalition.

The Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market (MWFM) brings together about 50 weekly vendors in the Greenhouse Annex at the Mitchell Park Domes. There, agricultural vendors offer high quality fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, poultry and dairy products. Local food vendors also bring a wide variety of freshly baked goods, jams, cider, honey, maple syrup, sorghum, sauces and soups, as well as delicious global cuisine.



City of Milwaukee's 172nd Birthday Party

Jan 25, 2018 at 05:30 pm - 08:00 pm (Thu)

The Grain Exchange
225 E. Michigan St., Milwaukee, WI

$35 per person
Admission includes gourmet food stations by Bartolotta Catering, complimentary beer and birthday cake. Cash bar.

Each year, the Milwaukee Press Club brings together more than 400 community and business leaders, common council members and corporate sponsors to celebrate another year of creating Milwaukee’s history. This year, we invite you to join us for the City of Milwaukee’s Annual Birthday Party on Thursday, January 25, 2018, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at The Grain Exchange, where we will celebrate one of Milwaukee’s most cherished historical feats – its brewing heritage.
From Pabst to Miller to Blatz, the big breweries paved the way for today’s micro-brew craze. Dozens of craft breweries have popped up in Milwaukee, satisfying our thirst for first-class suds. Join Mayor Barrett as we cheers to Milwaukee’s favorite breweries, members of the Milwaukee Common Council, business and community leaders, and the Milwaukee Press Club to connect and start the New Year on a positive note.




Urban Ecology Center - Washington Park
1859 N. 40th St., Milwaukee, WI 53208

Jan 27, 2018 at 12:00 pm - 04:00 pm (Sat)
Free admission
Get outside at Winterfest! If we’re lucky enough to get the weather we want we’ll have great winter activities like sledding and ice skating on the Washington Park lagoon. If the snow’s a no-show, we won’t let the weather ruin our fun! We’ll still be outdoors. Also enjoy arts, crafts, and homemade pie.



78th Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference

Hilton Milwaukee City Center
509 W Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53203

Jan 28, 2018 at 07:00 am - 06:00 pm (Sun)
Jan 29, 2018 at 07:00 am - 06:00 pm (Mon)
Jan 30, 2018 at 07:00 am - 09:00 pm (Tue)
Jan 31, 2018 at 07:00 am - 12:00 pm (Wed)

The 78th Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference will be held January 28-31, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. Make plans now to attend! The theme of the meeting is “Strengthening Natural Resources Through Collaboration.”
This annual event will attract over 1,000 biologists and students from state, federal, and tribal natural resources agencies from the Midwest, Great Plains, Rocky Mountains and Canadian provinces. Highlights include: nearly 400 technical presentations, poster displays, plenary sessions, networking opportunities, and social events.



South Milwaukee Winter Market

1101 Milwaukee Ave, South Milwaukee 

Sunday, February 4th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

South Milwaukee is kicking off their TENTH year with a new Sunday indoor winter market.

This will be a smaller market that copies our outdoor market and to test if our community would support this event over the winter months.