Abele Blasts State on Juvenile Prisons
State wants 21% hike in fees and more inmates at failing prisons.
Gov. Scott Walker‘s proposal for a 21 percent increase in the amount charged to counties for housing youth in the state’s two scandal-plagued juvenile prisons “is moving in exactly the wrong direction,” County Executive Chris Abele said Wednesday.
Walker’s budget proposes raising the fee from the current rate of $292 per child per day to $344 on July 1 of this year and to $352 on July 1, 2018. That would increase the annual cost of holding a child at Lincoln Hills School for Boys or Copper Lake School for Girls from $106,580 now to $128,480 in the second year of the budget.
“Honestly, you don’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes to figure out at least part of the motivation is the economy up in Wausau, because it sure as hell isn’t helping Milwaukee,” he said.
Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake are about 30 miles north of Wausau. Both schools have been under federal investigation for possible criminal and civil rights abuse of inmates. The ACLU of Wisconsin, along with the Juvenile Law Center and with pro bono help from the Quarles & Brady law firm, have filed a federal court lawsuit over conditions and alleged abuse at the schools, The suit, filed on behalf on former and current inmates, seeks class action status.
The plaintiffs also are seeking a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt most use of solitary confinement, pepper spray and use of restraints.
The county for six years has been reducing the number of youths it commits to the schools, he said. As of March 30, there were a total of 84 boys from Milwaukee County at Lincoln Hills and seven girls at Copper Lake, according to a county report.
“We spent a year-and-a-half trying to convince the state to do something smarter,” Abele said during a meeting of the Milwaukee Community Justice Council. The council includes representatives of many key actors of the justice system who collaborate in an effort to improve the system and its components.
County officials believed at one point that the state was interested in helping establish a youth correctional facility in the Milwaukee area, the exec said.
“We’ll do it right here and have better programming,” Abele said. Instead, he said, Walker proposed adding staff to the existing schools and charging counties more to use them.
“We are dramatically and expensively making it more likely that people are going to commit crime. … It’s just a poster child for everything that’s wrong,” he said.
“There’s a lot of legislation that everyone here would love to have Madison pass,” he said. “We spend a lot of time trying to do it and, you know, I can tell you why we’re supportive of getting it passed; you’d have to ask them why they’re not.”
Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.”
- MKE County: County Wants Zero Youth in State Juvenile Prisons - Graham Kilmer - May 26th, 2021
- Report Finds Improvements in Youth Prisons - Isiah Holmes - Apr 21st, 2021
- New Therapy Used at Lincoln Hills - Rob Mentzer - Apr 20th, 2021
- Evers Proposes $45.8 Million for Milwaukee Juvenile Facility - Gretchen Schuldt - Mar 1st, 2021
- MKE County: County Has Just 22 Inmates in Youth Prisons - Edgar Mendez - Feb 24th, 2021
- Evers Pushes Juvenile Justice System Changes - Corri Hess - Feb 18th, 2021
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Calls for Transformation of the Wisconsin Youth Justice System as the State Acknowledges it Will Not Meet the July 2021 Deadline to Close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Prisons - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Feb 8th, 2021
- Pandemic Causes Youth Prison Problems - Graham Kilmer - Jan 27th, 2021
- Can State Rescue Youth Corrections Plan? - Graham Kilmer - Jan 11th, 2021
- State Can’t Meet Deadline to Close Youth Prisons - Graham Kilmer - Dec 30th, 2020
Read more about Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake here