Delay in Closing Youth Prisons Criticized
Advocates oppose Evers’ projection of two years to close Lincoln Hills, Copper Lake.
Local advocates pushing for youth justice reform in Wisconsin expressed opposition to Gov. Tony Evers’ suggestion that it may take up to two years longer to close youth prisons Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls.
The suggestion came out of a committee meeting in Madison on Tuesday.
“We are disappointed, more than anything, that the state is not looking at this as a more urgent matter,” said Sharlen Moore, co-founder of advocacy organization Youth Justice Milwaukee (YJM), emphasizing that the governor recently visited the youth prisons. “Given the abuse that is still going on, this is an urgent matter that needs to be taken care of right away. Lincoln Hills needs to be closed as soon as possible.”
State Rep. Evan Goyke called the meeting during which Evers reportedly expressed concern about the current timeline laid out in a state bill. The legislation calls for closing the youth prisons by 2021 and replacing them with smaller regional facilities run by counties and a state-run facility for those who committed serious offenses. Goyke gathered a group of legislators, officials from the Department of Corrections and Evers to discuss potential adjustments to Act 185 to be included in new legislation that he is drafting with Rep. Michael Schraa of Oshkosh.
“Where the question of the timeline came in was not necessarily a goal or a plan of the governor’s, but a conversation about how state government builds things,” Goyke said. He added that the group discussed potential backup plans if the state or counties run into obstacles that prevent them from closing by 2021, such as unforeseen environmental remediation that could slow the building process. As is, counties need to submit grant applications for the smaller regional centers by March 31.
The discussion of a potential delay comes after a recently published report found continued use of pepper spray and isolation tactics against youth in Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake. It additionally pointed to delayed staff responses when youth sought assistance, and noted that rooms are not suicide-resistant. The report was conducted by a court-ordered monitor as part of the $18.9 million settlement between the DOC and youth represented by the ACLU, one of whom attempted suicide while at Copper Lake.
“To best protect these children, we believe that the state needs to move forward, expeditiously, to move as many of these young people as possible out of Lincoln Hills and back to their homes and communities, and to develop more humane and better facilities and services for the kids who remain in its care,” said Karyn Rotker, a staff attorney at ACLU of Wisconsin. “We would be very concerned with any kind of delay in that process.”
The discussion of delaying the timeline also follows Milwaukee County’s recently announced plans to build its small regional secure facility in the Havenwoods neighborhood. At a community meeting last week, county officials noted that the state was considering delaying the process, but said Milwaukee County was prepared to meet the current deadlines and would “aggressively advocate” to stay on track.
“We want to bring our youth home as soon as possible,” said Mark Mertens, administrator of the Milwaukee County Division of Youth and Family Services.
Goyke said that no one in the meeting disagreed with the plan to close the youth prisons and replace them with, “smaller, closer to home, trauma-informed, and evidence-based alternatives,” adding, “It was a conversation of how do we do this within practical limits.”
According to Goyke, the legislation he’s drafting to adjust Act 185 does not pose any “substantive changes” to the bill and does not have any funding implications, but rather clarifies how to implement the bill’s requirements. He noted that Act 185 adds major responsibilities to the counties and changes the role of DOC in the youth justice system, so stakeholders had questions about some of the specifics.
“The idea that the timeline in Act 185 needed an adjustment has been a conversation for a number of months,” Goyke said. “I don’t believe that it needs to be two years, but we do need to have an open discussion.”
According to Melissa Baldauff, a spokesperson for Evers, “The governor, members of the legislature, and stakeholders have all been consistent in saying that the state needs more time and money to safely and responsibly close Lincoln Hills. We are now working with stakeholders to determine a realistic timeline.”
Fred Royal, president of the Milwaukee NAACP, served on the state Juvenile Corrections Study Committee that provided recommendations to DOC regarding Act 185. He said he was “taken aback” by the governor’s suggestion to delay.
Moore said that Youth Justice Milwaukee hopes to see community members from Milwaukee, whose youth make up the majority of those at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, included in conversations before the state considers such a delay.
“Based on people we know who are in communication with these young people who are currently incarcerated, Lincoln Hills is not a safe place for children,” she said. “So we have to start listening to the voices of these young people who are being impacted. I’m sure they wouldn’t say, ‘Oh yeah, give me another two years here.’”
The state legislature would need to approve any changes to Act 185 before they would go into effect. Goyke suggested these conversations would continue as legislators deliberate the state budget next month.
“My goal is to keep the timeline as intact as possible, to be both pragmatic and [keep] it moving forward,” Goyke said. “My goal from the beginning has been to close Lincoln Hills and to institute wider youth justice reform. … It’s our one shot in a generation to get this right.”
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
- 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