County Hits 4-Year High of Youth in State Prisons
On track for highest number sentenced to Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake since 2018.
Milwaukee County has seen more than 50 youth sent to state juvenile prisons in 2022 for the first time since 2018.
The latest report on youth correctional placements from the county’s Department of Children, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) shows 52 children were ordered into the custody of state facilities at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake as of early November.
As of the report, there were 38 boys from the county currently incarcerated at Lincoln Hills and two girls at Copper Lake. Twelve youth had by then been released or transitioned to house monitoring.
The county has been trying for several years to bring the number of children incarcerated at state facilities down, with the long-term goal being zero Milwaukee children in state-run prisons. The county first began to see progress on this front beginning in 2016, when the annual number of Milwaukee children in these facilities began to go down year over year.
The increasing population in the state facilities has also impacted a number of preventive and community-oriented youth justice programs the county was administering. The state charges the county $1,178 a day for every child held in one of their juvenile prisons. The county did not budget, at the end of 2021, for the numbers they would see in 2022. The budget for 2023 cut funding for the county’s community programs to pay for higher expected costs of state incarceration.
The juvenile justice system in general has seen the number of youth coming in contact with it increase since the start of the pandemic. The county’s Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Facility experienced higher populations, often exceeding the facility’s capacity, in 2022 than it ever had. The courts were referring more children there on serious charges pending a trial and the average length of their detentions was getting longer. David Muhammad, deputy director of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), said many children in detention were facing charges for “auto theft and gun violence and those types of things that we know have only been exacerbated because of the pandemic.”
In September, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors debated a proposal from CYFS that would have formalized an agreement with Racine County to allow Milwaukee to send children to the Racine detention facility when Vel Phillips was overcrowded. The board voted it down at the same meeting it approved a similar contract for adults in the jail. An amendment to the 2023 budget will allow county officials to pursue the policy in the event of overcrowding.
In October, Kelly Pethke, CYFS administrator, told Urban Milwaukee there were three Milwaukee children in Racine’s own incarceration-alternative program. Placements to that program, which is a sentencing alterative to state prisons, were halted after the board voted down the contract with Racine in September, Pethke said, but the three children ordered there before the county board’s action were allowed to remain. The Racine program costs the county less than 50% of what incarceration in a state prison does.
- Some Progress, Still Problems at Lincoln Hills - Isiah Holmes - Jul 9th, 2023
- Plats and Parcels: Republicans Approve Gov. Evers’ Allocation of $32.6 Million More To Build Milwaukee Youth Prison - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 4th, 2023
- Milwaukee Youth Prison Costs Grow 71% - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 1st, 2023
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Approves New Youth Prison in Milwaukee - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 17th, 2023
- Eyes on Milwaukee: New Youth Prison Wins Key Endorsement - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 10th, 2023
- Eyes on Milwaukee: New Youth Prison Gains Plan Commission Approval - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 12th, 2022
- Problems, Staffing Shortages Still Plague Lincoln Hills - Isiah Holmes - Dec 10th, 2022
- MKE County: County Hits 4-Year High of Youth in State Prisons - Graham Kilmer - Nov 28th, 2022
- Youth Correctional Facility Faces Obstacles - Edgar Mendez - Nov 12th, 2022
- MKE County: Vote Could Send More Youth to Lincoln Hills - Graham Kilmer - Sep 22nd, 2022
Read more about Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Facilities here