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.
- 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
- Milwaukee County Wants Alternatives to Youth Incarceration - Sam Woods - Feb 22nd, 2020
- Youth Justice Milwaukee: Wisconsin is at a Turning Point in Youth Justice - Youth Justice Milwaukee - Feb 13th, 2020
- GOP Underfunds Youth Corrections Plan - Laurel White - Feb 13th, 2020
- Op Ed: Will Lincoln Hills Ever Be Closed? - State Sen. Jeff Smith - Dec 10th, 2019
- Special Report: New York’s After Care Program Helps Youth - Allison Dikanovic - Sep 17th, 2019
- MKE County: Youth Corrections Proposal Sent To State - Graham Kilmer - Sep 11th, 2019
- Special Report: Building Trust Can Help Juvenile Offenders - Allison Dikanovic - Sep 11th, 2019
Read more about Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake here