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Juvenile detention center planned for Milwaukee's northwest side moves a step forward

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is proposing to build a 32-bed juvenile detention center at this site on W. Clinton Ave. in Milwaukee.
Chuck Quirmbach
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is proposing to build a 32-bed juvenile detention center at this site on W. Clinton Ave. in Milwaukee.

Plans for a new state-built juvenile detention facility on Milwaukee's northwest side are moving ahead. But the project still has to clear several hurdles.

Wednesday, the city's Granville Advisory Committee endorsed the project, on a vote of 2-0, with two abstentions.

The vote came after the Wisconsin Department of Corrections gave an online presentation about the proposed 32-bed, single-story building.

Project architect Courtney Cooper acknowledges there have been safety concerns raised by some people living in a neighborhood near the proposed site of 79th and Clinton Avenue, which is in a light industrial area.

But Cooper says security measures would be in place.

"The recreation yard will be secured by a continuous perimeter wall designed with materials designed to complement the building. The perimeter wall will be 16 feet high to prevent climbing over it," Cooper says.

Cooper says there would be intermittent, narrow openings in the wall, to provide limited views to the outside. He says a dense security mesh would protect the openings, "Designed to prevent climbing and restrict the passage of items from outside the facility."

Cooper also says all visitors to the Milwaukee youth detention center would have to pass through security and that streetlights on Clinton, west of North 76th Street, would be improved.

Despite all the safety talk, the Corrections Department also emphasizes the building would focus on providing help and education to young people rather than being a punitive correctional institution.

This would be the first new juvenile detention center in Milwaukee County, under a years-long statewide effort to reduce the populations at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth institutions near Wausau, WI and house offenders closer to their families.

State money has been set aside for the new Clinton Ave. building, but the site still needs a local zoning change. The Milwaukee Plan Commission will hold a public hearing regarding zoning on Dec.12 at 1:30 p.m.

The Corrections Department says the building would not open until 2025, and probably would not be able to house all youth offenders from the area who need to be in a secure facility for up to a year. But the state says there are no current plans for a second new local juvenile site.

Some youth needing additional mental health treatment may be transferred from Northern Wisconsin to a facility in the Madison area.

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