Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center to expand under Gov. Walker’s plan

Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center to expand under Gov. Walker’s plan

Under a plan Gov. Scott Walker introduced on Thursday, the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison would add female patients and more male patients.

The plan would restructure the state’s juvenile corrections program by closing the Lincoln Hills Copper Lake Youth Prison and creating six smaller regional facilities, including the one at Mendota.

Greg Van Rybroek, director of the Mendota Mental Health Institute, called the impact of the plan “dramatic” for Mendota.

The MJTC program is a secure facility that treats some of Wisconsin’s most dangerous male juvenile offenders. The program has been recognized internationally for its approach to treating patients.

“We try to create a relationship there with that young person through the system through a model of care so that the person softens up enough on the inside, enough to talk about their real life,” Van Rybroek said. “Their real life is actually suffering and struggle, and very hard to talk about and understand.”

Mendota’s approach includes using positive reinforcement instead of punishment. Good behavior earns the patients the ability to stay up late, extra food and more time to talk on the phone, Van Rybroek said.

The governor’s plan said Mendota could add more patients as early as this fall.

The treatment center has 29 beds, and all are currently filled. Van Rybroek said Walker’s plan would likely mean a new building would need to be constructed.