Milwaukee, WI – Youth Justice Milwaukee co-founders Sharlen Moore and Jeffery Roman released the following statement on the legislation recently approved by the Assembly Committee on Corrections on the Wisconsin juvenile justice system and closing the terrible youth prison, Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake:
“Youth Justice Milwaukee opposes the legislation under consideration in the State Assembly, because we need to close youth prisons and invest in rehabilitative community programs – and this bill does the exact opposite.
“The youth prison, Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, is notoriously abusive and needs to close immediately. Like all youth prisons, Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake is outdated, expensive, and ineffective. Replacing that youth prison with multiple smaller versions of the same thing accomplishes nothing. Yet that’s exactly what this legislation would do: require new Type 1 juvenile correctional facilities to be built.
“This bill takes an extreme step to allow counties to take Youth Aid funds away from community treatment programs and direct them toward prison construction instead. It also negligently keeps youth under the authority of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections – despite that department’s proven ineffectiveness and repeated failure to prevent abuse – instead of switching jurisdiction to the Department of Children and Families, which is better equipped to work with impacted communities to develop real and lasting solutions.
“Our state incarcerates African American youth at a 15 times higher rate than white youth. Those young people should have a seat at the table and a part in the decision making as we work to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake and replace it with research-proven programs that actually work.
“As written, this bill seems to prioritize scoring political points over the needs of Wisconsin’s youth. This legislation was obviously created hastily and without the input of the communities it will harm. Governor Walker is rushing this deeply flawed bill so he can make closing Lincoln Hills an election-year talking point – even if he hasn’t really solved the problem. Our children deserve better. Members of the Wisconsin State Legislature should do their job and prioritize community safety and ending state-sponsored child abuse over any election.”