State seeking federal funds to redevelop youth prison

The Joliet Juvenile Prison, behind a razor-wire fence.

In light of recent scandals and allegations at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls, legislators from across the state are scrambling to find new alternatives for the youth currently housed at the correctional facility in Northern Wisconsin.

One idea being circulated by lawmakers is the reopening of the former Ethan Allen School for Boys, which was closed in 2011, amid a state budget crisis. Others are working to have the EPA declare the Ethan Allen property, a 140-acre plot as a brownfield and environmentally hazardous site, while seeking federal funds to redevelop it.

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State Rep. Cindi Duchow (R-Delafield) said representatives of the departments of corrections, administration and natural resources will meet to determine whether the 140-acre former correctional facility off Highway 83 just north of Wales meets the federal definition of a “brownfield.”

According to the federal EPA, a brownfield is a property where the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant complicates the potential expansion or redevelopment of that property.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the EPA provided funds to local governments to help clean up brownfields and redevelop them.

Duchow, who recently toured the site, said most of the 44 buildings are so contaminated with asbestos, lead paint and mold that they are unsafe and cannot be economically repaired.

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