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Wisconsin lawmakers look into rebuilding state prisons

RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Right now the state's prison system is designed to hold less than 17,000 inmates, but it's housing more than 23,000.

Sen Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, one of six lawmakers tasked with revamping the system says changes are necessary.

"We're going to need to do something with these facilities," Wanggaard said. "Whether that's knocking down some of these and rebuilding at that same location, whether it is rebuilding someplace else."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Wednesday he doesn't think there's any way around building a new facility.

Wanggaard says the prisons were built when you needed to transport prisoners on dirt roads, and upgrades are needed. He also says the facilities are too old.

"Some of them, when they were actually first built, some were built in the early 1800s and 1900s," Wanggaard said. "They did expansions and stuff, so we have some really dated. As a matter of fact, a couple of them are on the historical national registry."

The task force is also looking into decentralizing the youth system and creating satellite facilities all over the state. Wanggaard says that would put kids closer to support, and make it easier for parents to visit.

"To jump on a bus for a few hours to go someplace, I mean how often can you do that. Even though we do have buses that make that trip pretty routinely, like going up to Lincoln Hills or Copper Falls, it's a whole day."

The next step is for the task force to tour the state's 37 facilities and see the issues for themselves. Wanggaard says he plans to start touring some of those facilities in the coming months.

He hopes the task force will have a plan to move forward by the end of 2018.

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