Graham Kilmer
MKE County

House of Correction Changing Name

Crowley wants to better reflect its mission with new name: Community Reintegration Center.

By - Sep 26th, 2022 04:04 pm
House of Correction sign.

House of Correction sign.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley‘s 2023 budget request will include language that renames the Milwaukee County House of Correction (HOC) as the Community Reintegration Center.

Crowley and HOC Superintendent Chantell Jewell want the institution to be better aligned with its mission of rehabilitation. In a statement, the county executive said, “Rebranding the department to the Community Reintegration Center and investing in programming like psychiatric social workers and peer specialists shows Milwaukee County’s commitment to addressing the root causes of the problems facing our residents.”

Superintendent Jewell took over the HOC in the fall of 2020, amidst some of the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic. But since her tenure began, everything she’s done at the HOC has been an attempt to carry forward the county’s strategic plan of becoming the healthiest county in Wisconsin by achieving racial equity, Jewell told Urban Milwaukee in an interview. But now that COVID-19 has become more manageable, she said, “It gives us an opportunity to focus on what the true mission of the House of Correction is.”

“So our role is to ensure that once individuals are sent to the House of Correction, we make sure that they return to the community in a better place than when the came,” she added.

Along with rebranding, the budget will also make new investments in the HOC., including a 10% increase in the food budget to offer better food for the people incarcerated there, $11,000 in computers for a new computer lab and $100,000 for a peer specialist contract.

Peer specialists, Jewell said, are people who have “some lived experience within the criminal justice system.” The specialists will have certification to assist in specific programming related to things like substance abuse, cognitive behavioral programming or restorative justice, she said. “And so they will be able to connect on a different level with the individuals that are being served.”

“We know that the safest neighborhoods are the ones where everyone’s needs are met,” said County Executive Crowley. “So, when people find themselves in our care due to an unmet economic, medical, or economic need, it’s our job to connect them with the right resources that will set them up to be successful, productive residents once they re-enter the community.”

During Jewell’s time at the HOC, the facility has partnered with Marquette University to offer classes there, MATC has offered vocational classes, and the facility has also partnered on a program with Chase Bank to teach financial wellness. “We know a lot of crimes are motivated by money,” Jewell said. “So what happens is we teach individuals how to access resources differently.” The HOC is also working to open up a family engagement center, she said, explaining “we know that family distress is one of the drivers of criminal behavior.”

The HOC has also been working to reintroduce in-person visitation at the facility. David Rugaber, HOC assistant superintendent, recently told county board members that the facility is ready to begin visitation, but that it lacks the staff the implement it. “We do have 18 booths available for in-person visitation, we simply currently don’t have the staff,” Rugaber said. The facility is only staffed at 58%, Jewell recently said. She told Urban Milwaukee that a $3 pay raise for corrections officers recently went into effect and the HOC can now advertise positions at that pay level, “so we are expecting those numbers to improve.”

Jewell explained what she’s trying to do at the HOC by saying, “When someone comes into our facility, we are not about administering punishment… So we are here to help address whatever need is there that is driving individuals into the criminal justice system.”

That’s what the name change is aimed at communicating. And the change, Jewell hopes, will also break through some reluctance people have about working at the HOC.

“Research tells us that merely incarcerating someone without the added treatment is of no benefit,” she said. “Because all you’re doing is removing someone for a period of time when we have to be able to help address whatever is driving those behaviors.

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