Local leaders want to shut down the Green Bay prison

A bipartisan coalition of local leaders and lawmakers calls for closing the 120-year-old correctional institution
Green Bay Correctional Facility is obsolete
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 4:27 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2023 at 5:02 PM CST
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ALLOUEZ, Wis. (WBAY) - There’s a growing call from local leaders to shut down the Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI).

Letters from a bipartisan coalition -- among them, the Brown County sheriff, Allouez village president, and both Wisconsin state lawmakers who represent the village -- were sent to the Secretary of the State Department of Corrections.

Many of the letters contain the same language, saying the prison remaining open is a “missed opportunity for the greater Green Bay community.”

It’s an issue Action 2 News has been following for years (see previous reports from 2022, 2019 and 2017).

Those who support replacing the prison cite a handful of different reasons: They say the century-old building needs more than $200 million in upgrades just to get up to code. Advocates also say that more than a thousand inmates live inside, exceeding the building’s capacity by hundreds of people.

“They have buildings that are crumbling, falling apart… it’s time to move on,” Village President Jim Rafter said.

Rafter said along with increasing safety, redeveloping the prison site could boost the area’s economy.

“Every year they have to put millions of dollars into a facility that’s over 120 years old. It’s reached its end of life,” he said.

A study by St. Norbert College in nearby De Pere found redeveloping the land behind the prison walls could create more than $150 million in economic output annually.

“It was a village resident who is a planner, and he listened to our story, and he put together a design,” the village president said. “Residential, retail, entertainment, hotels, parks, it was a beautiful design.”

Leaders are hoping the upcoming budget proposal from Governor Tony Evers will take steps to address the prison issue.

“In a perfect world I hope this budget cycle commits to closing GBCI and finding a path forward,” Rafter said.

State Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D-Madison) added, “Devil’s in the details with all policy making. I haven’t seen a policy proposal pen to paper at this point but I look forward to that and being part of the team that figures out the best solution.”

“Republicans and Democrats -- and that’s what it’s going to take, people on both sides of the aisle coming together for different reasons to close GBCI to agree on a path going forward,” Rafter said.

We reached out to Governor Evers’s office for comment on whether his upcoming budget would include plans for the correctional institutions. We haven’t heard back yet.

The governor is delivering his next budget proposal February 15.