MILWAUKEE — Nearly a dozen stakeholders gathered Monday outside the Felmers O. Chaney Correctional Center near 30th and Fond du Lac.
Members of the group said they’re okay with the juvenile center, but not by losing the already established Chaney Center for men.
“The Chaney Center provides Milwaukee-area men with a variety of pre-release programming they need to successfully re-join the community,” said Abby Kanyer, Community Engagement Manager of ACLU Wisconsin.
The potential move would be part of a domino effect. As the state looks to close its troubled Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake facility in Irma, new regional youth detention centers will replace it.
One of those must be within Milwaukee County, where a site has yet to be chosen. That is slowing the timeline of state funding. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said March 1 he will not vote on the facility until they know exactly where it's going.
“It’s very challenging for us to say we’re going to pass a bunch of money without having a site for it to actually go,” Vos said.
Now, repurposing the Cheney Center is being looked at as an option.
“It’s too many abandoned properties in this community and this city to force our community between helping our young people and helping our men coming back into the community,” said Sylvester Jackson of EXPO, Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing.
Jackson completed a 10-year prison sentence in 2017. He said the pre-release and transitional work done at Chaney with adult inmates is essential.
"The men in this community deserves a chance to make it and it’s not going to help them if they’re shipped way up north if they don’t have jobs, support or income,” he said.
This group is hopeful that after working with the people, they can find a solution to both issues.
“Let’s save the Chaney Center, close the Lincoln Center, we can have it all,” said Sharlen Moore of Urban Underground.
Senate Bill 520, related to the new facility is set for a vote Tuesday.
The FCAB said it has heard from the Governor’s office and is expected to be in communication with them as a permanent site is considered.