County Proposal Replaces Youth Prison
Tells state it can renovate county Juvenile Justice Center to house children now in state prisons.
With the closure of Wisconsin’s troubled youth prisons delayed, Milwaukee County has submitted a new proposal to state officials to bring the youth housed there home sooner.
In March, Milwaukee County and three other counties submitted proposals to the state to build new juvenile youth facilities to replace the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prisons.
The $41.4 million Milwaukee proposal included remodeling areas at the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center on Watertown Plank Road, which includes 22 existing beds and building a new “Secure Residential Care Center for Children and Youth” on the city’s northwest side.
On July 1, the county submitted a new proposal that would instead use the money to remodel and expand existing residential facilities and programs. This would include remodeling 22 beds at the Vel Phillips Center to serve as an assessment and crisis unit and collaborating with community partners to remodel two or three existing buildings to provide eight beds for girls and 24 beds for boys.
This model would allow for the youth currently at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake to return to Milwaukee sooner and create a continuum of care that focuses on best practices to reduce recidivism, said Mary Jo Meyers, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services.
Meyers noted that Wisconsin’s juvenile correctional facilities predominantly house young people of color, who are currently placed hours away from their homes and communities.
“By capitalizing on existing facilities and resources, we will be able to provide the critical prevention and programming needed for our young people of color to have successful futures while also making our communities safer,” Meyers said.
Evers has said that timetable is too aggressive. Republican state Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, introduced a bill that keeps the prison open until July 1, 2021. The state Assembly and Senate approved the bill in June and it was signed by Evers July 1.
Brown, Dane and Racine counties have also submitted grant applications to build a new “Secure Residential Care Center for Children and Youth.” On July 22, the state Department of Correction’s grant committee will meet for the first time since applications were filed to begin reviewing the proposals.
Milwaukee County has been working to reform youth justice since 2011 through a program called Project Rise, which changes the focus from punishment to rehabilitation to create more positive outcomes for youth.
Meyers said how the youth are being treated at Copper Lake and Lincoln Hills will make it difficult for rehabilitating to take place. Since 2011, members of the Milwaukee County Health Department have been going to the youth prisons to work with the prisoners and meet with judges to see if the youth are ready to come back into the community for rehabilitation.
That work, as well as preventative outreach will continue, Meyers said.
“We know that when you have a child in any setting longer than six months you get diminishing returns and they have longer to learn new behaviors that are not productive for them,” Meyers said.
Listen to the WPR report here.
Milwaukee County Submits Proposal To Get Children Back Sooner From Youth Prison was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
- 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
- MKE County: Crowley Defers Youth Corrections Grant Until State Has Sustainable Plan - Graham Kilmer - Sep 16th, 2020
- State Blows Up County Youth Corrections Plan - Graham Kilmer - May 20th, 2020
- Youth Advocates Remain Committed to Closing Wisconsin Youth Prisons Following Monitor’s Report - American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin - Mar 5th, 2020
Read more about Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake here