Youth Justice Milwaukee
Press Release

Close Lincoln Hills: Advocates and Officials Reiterate Call for Closing Abusive Youth Prisons

Counties must stop sending vulnerable youth to unsafe facility beyond repair

By - Nov 16th, 2017 12:03 pm
Lincoln Hills School and Copper Lake School. Photo from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Lincoln Hills School and Copper Lake School. Photo from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

MILWAUKEE – Led by Youth Justice Milwaukee, a coalition of community organizations, elected officials, youth advocates and family members of youth involved in the juvenile justice system today called on Milwaukee County officials to stop sending young people to the abusive Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons.

After several years of federal and state investigations and interventions, Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake remain abusive, dangerous facilities that are incapable of rehabilitating young people. But in the face of state inaction, Wisconsin counties must stop sending youth to these failed institutions and instead invest resources into a spectrum  of alternative treatment options that are proven to work better.

“It’s clear that Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake have failed to help young people,” said Sean Wilson, Youth Justice Milwaukee coalition member. “It’s no surprise that an inherently inhumane environment like Lincoln Hills isn’t helping young people get back on track. The best way forward is to keep investing in community treatment programs that actually work, and are close to their families and support networks that can keep them safe and hold them accountable.”

“While needed reforms to our country’s broken juvenile justice system garner national attention, Wisconsin, through its dangerous Lincoln Hill and Cooper Lake Youth Prisons, continues to put young people in harm’s way and ignores the principals of safety, justice, and restoration,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color Of Change.

“Across the country, states are closing their youth prisons as data exposes the ineffective and inhumane practice of locking kids into prison cells. What takes place in these prisons is not unfortunate, it is unjust and those in power that allow this inhumanity to continue through silence or support need to be held accountable. This is why Color Of Change is proud to join our friends at Youth Justice Milwaukee to demand Governor Scott Walker to stop allowing young people to be warehoused and close Lincoln Hill and Cooper Lake Youth Prisons.”

The call for local action comes at a time when Governor Walker and the state legislature are considering short-sighted legislation that would subject more youth to prison and for longer periods. At the same time, the Department of Corrections is considering moving some of our most vulnerable youth from Lincoln Hills to an adult facility – which would only exacerbate the trauma and eliminate any chance of rehabilitation.

“Supporting and scaling programs that deliver better outcomes is a far better investment than youth prisons, which only cause trauma, limit learning and leads to future recidivism,” said Jeffery Roman, co-founder of Youth Justice Milwaukee.  “It is impossible to succeed in such an environment. We need to end our reliance on these facilities, and we need our local officials to take action and stop putting kids in harm’s way. There is a clear path forward for Milwaukee’s youth, and that doesn’t include youth prisons.”

For details on Youth Justice Milwaukee’s recommended alternatives to sending youth to Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Juvenile Prisons, click here.

Youth Justice Milwaukee is a broad-based campaign advocating for community-based, family-centered, restorative programs as an alternative to locking up children in Wisconsin’s youth prisons. Youth Justice Milwaukee represents a coalition of persons who were incarcerated as youth, families of youth who are or were incarcerated, service providers, and local and national youth justice advocates.

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