Gov. Evers tours Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake Schools , first gov. in at least 8 years to tour

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IRMA, Wis. (WSAW) -- Gov. Tony Evers made it one of this priorities to accomplish during his first week in office, and now he has. Friday, Gov. Evers did what his predecessor would not: tour Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake Schools.

Friday's tour was the first time in at least eight years a sitting governor has stepped inside the facility. Nine years ago, then-Gov. Jim Doyle began studying whether consolidating the two youth prisons, Ethan Allen and Lincoln Hills, into one to help with the budget deficit. Newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker followed through with the consolidation moving all juveniles into Lincoln Hills in his first budget in 2011. For the eight years he was in office, Gov. Walker refused to go inside any prison, let alone Lincoln Hills despite reports of inmate and staff abuse, a federal investigation, and a lawsuit against the state.

Gov. Evers' staff said Thursday he would not make time to speak with reporters before, during, or after his tour. Throughout his campaign and after being elected, Gov. Evers has said he wants to reform the youth criminal justice system. It was one of the main topics discussed at the first meeting of his administration's Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Policy Advisory Council last month.

During his time as state superintendent, Gov. Evers also served on the committee developing recommendations for rules at future secured juvenile facilities after Gov. Walker declared last year that Lincoln Hills would close in favor of smaller regional facilities run by the state and counties.