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Forerunner: The Green Bay Correctional Institution

Green Bay Correctional Institution
A building for 600 residents was to be ready by July 1, 1898, at a cost of $125,000. Green Bay Correctional Institution photo

By Kris Leonhardt


GREEN BAY – As the fate of the Green Bay Correctional Institution hangs in the balance, we take a look at its beginnings and long history in the community.

After Wisconsin became a state in 1848, it established its first prison in Waupun to house adult men and women; the adult prison opened in 1851.

After visiting a similar facility in New York, state officials were favoring a new approach to handling the younger offenders and bounced around the idea of such a facility in Wisconsin.

While officials supported introducing the state’s second prison, the funding wasn’t there, so the matter sat untouched.

In 1896, a bill began circulating appropriating money for the facility, and Green Bay and the city’s Business Men’s Association wanted it bad.

In early 1897, the Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph reported that “Green Bay wants that intermediate prison, Governor (William) Upham is in favor of it, and he will make a strong fight for it. He will make it, if it is made.”

The bill was introduced by Green Bay Assemblyman Thomas McGrath to establish “a state institution to be known as the Wisconsin State Reformatory, to which all male persons between the ages of 16 and 25 inclusive, who for the first time, so far as can be judicially ascertained, are convicted of penalties now punishable by confinement in the state prison, or misdemeanors the maximum penalty of which is imprisonment for one year in a county jail, shall in the discretion of the judge having jurisdiction be sentenced.”

Once passed the state board of control was to select and purchase the site for the facility, with the approval of the governor, within four months of its passage.

A building for 600 residents was to be ready by July 1, 1898, at a cost of $125,000.

Up to a dozen communities were fighting for the facility, including Oshkosh, Menasha, Sheboygan, Oconto, Neenah, Marshfield and Marinette.

But, in the end, newspaper accounts acknowledged that Green Bay would put up a good battle for it.

On May 19, 1897, the state board of control ultimately approved Green Bay as the location of the new reformatory after McGrath arrived in Madison with five site locations for consideration.

The following day, the board of control was in Green Bay to inspect the sites.

By local standards, the favored site appeared to be the southern portion of the Kellogg farm property, which extended from the Fox River to the East River, and was secured at a cost of $15,000.

Another option was on the Quatsoe farm, which lay south of that property and had also been secured.

After visiting the five sites, the board of control members found all of them agreeable, and local leaders awaited their decision, which came in early June.

A 188-acre parcel of the Kellogg farm was then selected at a cost of $15,000, in the town of Allouez.

Continued in an upcoming edition

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