Statement by Youth Justice Milwaukee on Court’s Decision to Move Teen from Lincoln Hills to Adult Criminal Justice System
In response to the 2nd District Court of Appeals’ decision to move a 16-year-old inmate from the treacherous Lincoln Hills School for Boys to the adult criminal justice system, Youth Justice Milwaukee (YJM), a coalition of community organizations, youth advocates and family members of youth involved in the juvenile justice system, released the following statement:
“The notion that a youth prison is so dangerous that teens would be better off in the adult criminal justice system is appalling and demonstrates that Wisconsin’s juvenile justice system is truly broken. The Court’s action doesn’t prioritize anyone’s safety; rather, it sets a dangerous precedent. National experts agree that children do not belong behind bars. Instead, we should be investing in alternatives to incarceration that are proven to more effectively rehabilitate youth while working toward a fairer, safer juvenile justice system. There’s no doubt that Lincoln Hills is a dangerous, violent facility. While we continue to advocate for its closure, funneling children into the adult system is unconscionable. It’s time to end youth incarceration and invest in community-based alternatives which can hold youth accountable while offering a real chance at rehabilitation.”
Overwhelming evidence shows that youth prisons are harmful, ineffective and excessively expensive. Youth in prison are routinely subjected to maltreatment which can exacerbate trauma, limit learning and lead to future recidivism. The rampant abuses at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Cooper Lake School for Girls have been widely documented, as they remain under investigation by the FBI. In recent months, allegations of sexual assault, use of pepper spray, strangulation and suffocation of youth, as well as destruction of public records, have renewed calls for the closure of these outdated, inhumane facilities.
Last October, YJM released Safer Communities, Stronger Families: Creating a Community-Based Continuum of Services and Supports for Milwaukee’s Adjudicated Youth, a list of recommendations for transforming Milwaukee’s juvenile justice system. YJM also rejects proposals to build a new youth prison in Milwaukee County, which would be a huge step backwards and a gross misuse of public funds.
Youth Justice Milwaukee is a broad-based campaign advocating for community-based, family-centered, restorative programs as an alternative to locking up children in Wisconsin’s youth prisons. Youth Justice Milwaukee represents a coalition of persons who were incarcerated as youth, families of youth who are or were incarcerated, service providers, and local and national youth justice advocates.