County Picks Location for Youth Offender Facility
Northwest side facility planned as part of model program to reduce recidivism.
Milwaukee County will open a new secure residential facility for youth on the far northwest side of the city in the Havenwoods neighborhood after Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake close in 2021.
Representatives from the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services announced the potential sites for the new facility — 6101 W. Mill Rd. or 6600 N. Teutonia Ave. — at a community meeting Thursday at St. Peter-Immanuel Lutheran Church, 7801 W. Acacia St.
Act 185, the state bill that will close Wisconsin’s youth prisons by 2021, mandates that Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake be replaced with a smaller state-run facility for those in the Serious Juvenile Offender (SJO) program, as well as with smaller regional facilities throughout the state that will be run by counties for youth with less serious offenses.
A regional facility run by Milwaukee County will be built and located at one of the two Havenwoods sites. The county considered renovating the existing Vel R. Phillips Youth Detention Center, but leaders concluded that it would be more expensive than building a new facility that better accommodates its needs. The two potential sites are now home to a parking lot and an open field.
The state-run facility also may be located in Milwaukee, according to recommendations submitted to the state Department of Corrections by the Juvenile Corrections Study Committee, but state officials have not made a final decision.
Milwaukee County officials said they are taking this opportunity to create a new model for youth justice in Milwaukee that is intended to reduce recidivism and promote positive outcomes for youth while maintaining neighborhood safety.
“These are our children,” said Joe Donald, presiding judge of Milwaukee County Children’s Court. “We want to teach them to be responsible and empathetic.”
The county-run facility will be for youth who have been convicted of lower classifications of felonies such as battery or theft, and youth who have been convicted of non-felony offenses, such as petty theft, disorderly conduct or drug possession, but are still deemed to require secure placement. If the facility were to open tomorrow under these criteria, 56 Milwaukee youth who are at Lincoln Hills would be placed there.
According to Mark Mertens, administrator of the Milwaukee County Division of Youth and Family Services, the facility will emphasize youths’ reintegration into the community.
“Lincoln Hills is going away,” said Mertens. “That model is not coming to Milwaukee.”
One of the most obvious differences is the location of the facility. Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake are more than three hours away from Milwaukee. Proximity to youths’ families and existing support systems were important considerations when identifying potential locations, according to Mary Jo Meyers, director of the Department of Health and Human Services for Milwaukee County.
In addition to looking for a site within the City of Milwaukee, where most adjudicated youth come from, Mertens said the county sought a site on surplus county-owned land that was least five acres, easily accessible to public transportation and close to other community resources for youth.
David Muhammad, deputy director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said the new facility will not look a prison and will be “homelike.” He said that county officials are considering models from places such as New York and Washington, D.C., where recidivism rates dropped dramatically in recent years.
Mertens said that there will be no use of pepper spray or solitary confinement in the county-run facility, referencing a recent report that showed the continued use of such restraints in Wisconsin’s youth prisons.
“The way that we will maintain safety is by establishing positive relationships with youth,” Mertens said.
Sumaiyah Clark, enterprise project administrator at HHS, said the facility will build these relationships through practices such as restorative justice circles, meditation, yoga and arts for healing. It will also include programs to prepare youth for the workforce.
She said the county will look to hire staff who can build relationships with youth based on common experiences and who look like the youth they are serving.
“We will be selective with hiring,” Mertens added. “It will be more of a youth development job than a corrections job.”
Mertens said the new county facility will utilize multi-systemic therapy, a form of treatment that involves a young person’s family and is individualized for each youth. The approach is being used in the new county-run residential care facility, Bakari Center.
A lot of programming and facility-related specifics are still unknown, including details about the education that will be provided and the number of beds the facility will hold.
Aaron Kelly, a correctional officer at the Vel R. Phillips Youth Detention Center, said that he hopes the families of youth directly affected by the system are included in conversations about the new facility. His sister, Jasmine Kelly, said she thinks it would be good to talk to or survey incarcerated youth about what they would like to see changed.
Both of the proposed locations for the new county facility are in County Supervisor Sequanna Taylor’s district.
Taylor and other county officials said they want to hear residents’ feedback on the proposed facility. A community input session hosted by Ald. Chantia Lewis will be held on Thursday, Jan 31, at 6 p.m. at Direct Supply, 6663 Industrial Road.
Under the state legislation, Milwaukee County needs to submit a grant proposal by March 31 to receive funding from the state for the facility. Gov. Tony Evers was recently quoted saying that the state may consider pushing back the deadline, but Mertens said that Milwaukee County is advocating to maintain the current timeline.
“We want to bring our youth home from Lincoln Hills as soon as possible,” he said.
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
More about the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake
- Senator Taylor Pushes Juvenile Corrections Reform - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Jun 12th, 2019
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: Wisconsin Must Include Community Input for Any Youth Transfers - Youth Justice Milwaukee - May 10th, 2019
- County Opposes Plan to Replace Lincoln Hills - Allison Dikanovic - May 7th, 2019
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: Lincoln Hills Continued Use of Pepper Spray, Suicide Risk Shows Youth Prison Model is Broken - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Apr 19th, 2019
- County Submits Youth Prison Proposal - Corri Hess - Mar 30th, 2019
- 6 Things to Know About Lincoln Hills - Allison Dikanovic - Mar 22nd, 2019
- Evers Announces Youth Prison for City - Laurel White - Mar 13th, 2019
- Gov. Evers Moves Forward on Plans to Close Lincoln Hills - Gov. Tony Evers - Mar 12th, 2019
- Evers Proposes Delay Of Youth Prison Closure - Laurel White - Feb 28th, 2019
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: We Must Move With a Sense of Urgency - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Feb 27th, 2019
- MKE County: County Officials Offer Antidote to Youth Prisons - Dave Fidlin - Feb 14th, 2019
- Delay in Closing Youth Prisons Criticized - Allison Dikanovic - Feb 4th, 2019
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: “We need action, not excuses.” - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Jan 30th, 2019
- County Picks Location for Youth Offender Facility - Allison Dikanovic - Jan 29th, 2019
- MKE County: County Prepares for Lincoln Hills Closing - Corri Hess - Jan 26th, 2019
- Problems Continue At State Youth Prisons - Laurel White - Jan 15th, 2019
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: Unacceptable Conditions Show We Can’t Wait for 2021 to Close Lincoln Hills - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Jan 14th, 2019
- State Rep. David Bowen Applauds New Governor Evers Visit to Lincoln Hills, Copper Lake - State Rep. David Bowen - Jan 14th, 2019
- Evers Will Visit Lincoln Hills - Shawn Johnson - Jan 3rd, 2019
- New Residential Treatment Facility Opens - Allison Dikanovic - Dec 19th, 2018
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Hosts Successful Roundtable with Elected Leaders on Youth Justice Reform - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Dec 12th, 2018
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Calls for More Community Input at Department of Corrections Community Meeting on Plans for Lincoln Hills Closure - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Sep 18th, 2018
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Statement on Judge’s OK to Lincoln Hills Settlement - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Sep 14th, 2018
- Youth Justice Milwaukee Statement on Lincoln Hills Incident with Young Person with Appendicitis - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Aug 31st, 2018
- Op Ed: Lincoln Hills Closed. Now What’s Needed? - Sharlen Moore - Aug 27th, 2018
- Wall Blasts Walker, Schimel on Youth Prison - Laurel White - Aug 13th, 2018
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: Department of Corrections Should Meet with Stakeholders in Milwaukee on Lincoln Hills - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Aug 8th, 2018
- Juvenile Corrections Reform Signed Into Law - State Rep. Evan Goyke - Apr 2nd, 2018
- Governor Walker Signs Bipartisan Juvenile Justice Reform Bill into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Mar 30th, 2018
- Speaker Vos Statement: Signing of the ‘Wisconsin Model’ for Juvenile Corrections Reform - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos - Mar 30th, 2018
- Shilling statement on Lincoln Hills - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Mar 30th, 2018
- Rep. Bowen statement on passage of Wisconsin Model of youth justice - State Rep. David Bowen - Feb 21st, 2018
- Kleefisch-Bowen bill lays foundation for youth corrections overhaul - State Rep. David Bowen - Feb 13th, 2018
- Taylor and Bipartisan Legislators Introduce Juvenile Corrections Bill - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Feb 13th, 2018
- Walker Renews Call to Gut Services - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Jan 18th, 2018
- Supervisor Sequanna Taylor Offers to Help Governor Walker with Plan to Close Lincoln Hill and Copper Lake - Sup. Sequanna Taylor - Jan 18th, 2018
- Statement on Delayed Action at Lincoln Hills - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Jan 16th, 2018
- Governor Walker Calls on Legislature to Pass Bipartisan Reform for Wisconsin’s Juvenile Corrections System in 2018 - Gov. Scott Walker - Jan 16th, 2018
- Response to Walker’s revisions last night on Lincoln Hills - Democratic Party of Wisconsin - Jan 16th, 2018
- Another Walker Non-Answer on Lincoln Hills Raises a Significant Question - Democratic Party of Wisconsin - Jan 12th, 2018
- When Will Lincoln Hills Close? - Democratic Party of Wisconsin - Jan 9th, 2018
- Shuttering of Lincoln Hills a first step in bringing true rehabilitation for youth offenders - Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton - Jan 5th, 2018
- Career Politician Gov. Scott Walker Governs For Re-Election With Campaign Gimmick - Andy Gronik - Jan 4th, 2018
- Changes Needed at Lincoln Hills Now, Not After the Next Election - State Sen. Chris Larson - Jan 4th, 2018
- Walker agrees to do his job after years of willful neglect and political cover up at Lincoln Hills — now when it threatens his own re-election - Democratic Party of Wisconsin - Jan 4th, 2018
- Walker a Day Late and Dollar Short on Juvenile Corrections - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Jan 4th, 2018
- Governor Walker Announces Plan to Provide a Long-Term Solution for Wisconsin’s Juvenile Corrections and Treatment Systems - Gov. Scott Walker - Jan 4th, 2018
- Dana Wachs calls on Walker administration to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake - State Rep. Dana Wachs - Nov 16th, 2017
- Op Ed: Lincoln Hills Even Worse Than Reported - Jake Edwards - Nov 16th, 2017
- Close Lincoln Hills: Advocates and Officials Reiterate Call for Closing Abusive Youth Prisons - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Nov 16th, 2017
- 2018 Budget Includes $90,000 for Youth Training Program - Sup. Sequanna Taylor - Nov 6th, 2017
- Rep. Bowen statement on DOC Internal Affairs Unit - State Rep. David Bowen - Oct 10th, 2017
- Sen. LaTonya Johnson’s Juvenile Justice Reform Signed Into Law - State Sen. LaTonya Johnson - Aug 2nd, 2017
- Court Watch: Judge Rules on Lincoln Hills - Gretchen Schuldt - Jul 13th, 2017
- Federal Court finds current conditions of confinement for youth at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools unconstitutional - American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin - Jun 23rd, 2017
- Court Watch: Pictures of Youths in Prison - Gretchen Schuldt - Jun 20th, 2017
- Abele Blasts State on Juvenile Prisons - Gretchen Schuldt - Apr 27th, 2017
- Court Watch: ACLU Seeks Lincoln Hills Injunction - Gretchen Schuldt - Apr 20th, 2017
- More Horrors at Juvenile Prisons? - Gretchen Schuldt - Apr 19th, 2017
- Court Watch: Chemical Spraying Used At Lincoln Hills - Gretchen Schuldt - Jan 27th, 2017
- Court Watch: Shocking Charges in Lincoln Hills Suit - Gretchen Schuldt - Jan 25th, 2017
- Corrections Officials Face Community on Lincoln Hills - Jabril Faraj - Jun 22nd, 2016
- Precious Lives: A Debate Over Lincoln Hills Problems - Dee J. Hall - May 24th, 2016
- Op-Ed: End Solitary Confinement, Especially of Youth - Laurence J. Dupuis - Feb 18th, 2016
- Murphy’s Law: Why Walker Allowed Lincoln Hills Abuses - Bruce Murphy - Feb 16th, 2016