Today, in response to the Department of Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher’s claim that Lincoln Hills School for Boys is now a safe facility following changes to psychological services and guard training, Youth Justice Milwaukee (YJM) released the following statement:
“Making a few changes to a youth prison as dangerous as Lincoln Hills is an insufficient solution to a problem that is life and death for so many families,” said Jeff Roman of Youth Justice Milwaukee. “This is just another example of how out of touch the Department of Corrections is with the growing body of research shining a light on the reality of life in youth prisons. These facilities are beyond repair, and working toward closing them as soon as possible is the only solution. We cannot keep sending our kids to failed prisons and expect good outcomes. Instead of defending Lincoln Hills, Secretary Litscher should work with our elected officials to develop and scale more effective, community-based alternatives to close it once and for all.”
Last month, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the Juvenile Law Center sued state officials for cruel and unusual punishment at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake facilities on behalf of four teenagers. The rampant abuses at these youth prisons, including allegations of sexual assault, use of pepper spray, strangulation and suffocation of youth, as well as destruction of public records, have been widely documented. Another lawsuit has also been filed against Copper Lake over neglect by prison officials and a young girl’s subsequent attempted suicide.
Youth Justice Milwaukee (YJM), a coalition of community organizations, youth advocates and family members of youth involved in the juvenile justice system calls on county officials to stop sending Milwaukee youth to Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, and instead redirect funds to community-based treatment programs that are proven to lead to better outcomes. Overwhelming evidence shows that youth prisons are harmful, ineffective and excessively expensive. Youth in these facilities are routinely subjected to maltreatment which can exacerbate trauma, limit learning and lead to future recidivism.
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.