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Milwaukee County Board Declares State of Emergency for Kids at Lincoln Hills

The Milwaukee County Board has agreed to spend up to $500,00 on alternative housing options for kids at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake

The Milwaukee County Board has declared a state of emergency for county youth serving time at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls. Federal and state authorities are investigating those two corrections facilities in northern Wisconsin. 

There have been allegations of abuse, neglect and sexual assault of young people. The county’s move Thursday will allow it to bring some of the kids home.

The county board unanimously agreed to spend up to $500,000 creating alternative housing options in Milwaukee County for local kids still serving time at Lincoln Hills. Nearly 160 Milwaukee youth are currently living there at the cost of about $300 a day per kid. The money the board released will create up to 68 beds a local detention center and allow kids to stay there longer; and some funding will explore options for more dangerous juveniles. Supervisor Peggy Romo West says that while the state failed at ensuring the safety of kids at Lincoln Hills, so did Milwaukee County.

“Somebody should have been looking after them and making sure that even though they were in the state’s care, knowing that one day they would come back to Milwaukee County or knowing that we were the ones that sent them there should have been some type of oversight that was being provided,” Romo West says.

Since the start of the investigation, around 20 Lincoln Hills’ staff members have been removed from their positions.

Supervisor Moore Omokunde says the healing process for some of the kids will begin once they’re closer to home.

“What this does is says bring these young people back home. Part of your recovery is being close to your family. If I’m a young person inside and I think my family doesn’t care about me, but I’m down the street and they can come see me and show me how much they care, that means a lot to my recovery. That means a lot to me getting back on that path,” Omokunde says.

Some supervisors urged their peers to make sure they can meet the needs of the juveniles before bringing them closer to home.

The board’s plan funds 12 professionals who would evaluate the needs of each youth.

Milwaukee County Chief Judge Maxine White spoke to county supervisors several times, urging them to act on behalf of Milwaukee juveniles at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, after she personally witnessed conditions at the two detention facilities in northern Wisconsin.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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