Milwaukee County Wants Alternatives to Youth Incarceration
After the legislature failed to fund new facilities, Milwaukee County continues to explore alternatives to locking kids up.
Although the closure of the state’s two youth prisons remains in question, Milwaukee leaders say their focus continues to be on finding alternatives to youth incarceration.
Last week the Joint Finance Committee voted not to fund two state-run youth prison facilities, one of which would have been located in Milwaukee County. This makes it unlikely that Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls will be closed by the July 2021 deadline.
“On the surface, it definitely changes our plans because it forces us to go back to the drawing board again,” she said. “But we’ve been working actively to reduce the number of kids going to secure facilities and to see how the kids we have there can be brought back sooner. So from the perspective of our programming, that all will continue to happen.”
Act 185 only authorizes funding for construction of new prison facilities. It does not include any funding for the alternatives to incarceration that the county wants to implement.
Youth Justice Milwaukee, an advocacy organization, has also stressed the importance of funding programming instead of constructing new facilities. Sharlen Moore, its executive director said her organization is focused on keeping young people out of the incarceration system altogether.
“We’re looking to decrease the footprint of incarceration in Wisconsin,” Moore said. “We’re not here to build prisons, we’re here to support young people.”
Meanwhile, the county is continuing to focus on its “continuum of care” model, which favors integrating young people back into the Milwaukee community through a series of specialized programs. The model, based on other systems used across the nation, is designed to limit the amount of time youth spend in prison and to connect them with mentors and resources.
That model, and the work on-the-ground in Milwaukee, isn’t changing much in the near future, said Dawn Barnett, co-executive director at Running Rebels, a community organization that partners with the county to work with young people involved in the justice system.
“The issue with what’s happening with Act 185 is that it’s all talk right now. Our focus is doing everything we can for the young people in our care every single day,” she said.
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
Related Legislation: Act 185
- 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
- MKE County: Crowley Defers Youth Corrections Grant Until State Has Sustainable Plan - Graham Kilmer - Sep 16th, 2020
Read more about Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake here