Youth Justice Milwaukee
Press Release

Youth Justice Milwaukee Calls for More Community Input at Department of Corrections Community Meeting on Plans for Lincoln Hills Closure

YJM continued to advocate for alternatives to locked-door facilities while investing in close-to-home programs like mentoring and job training.

By - Sep 18th, 2018 06:47 pm

MILWAUKEE, WI – This evening, Youth Justice Milwaukee (YJM) and community members met with the Department of Corrections (DOC) to discuss the agency’s plans to implement Act 185, the legislation that closes Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons by January 2021.

In small groups, YJM and community members discussed the proposed secure residential care centers for children and youth, asked questions and provided feedback to DOC. Act 185 requires the creation of new Type 1 facilities, similar to Lincoln Hills, as well as secure care centers where young people will be removed from their families and community.

YJM continued to advocate for alternatives to locked-door facilities while investing in close-to-home programs like mentoring and job training.

“Closing Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake is a major accomplishment and this meeting is a step in the right direction, but Wisconsin still has a long way to go to bring true justice to communities, especially Milwaukee,” said Sharlen Moore, co-founder of Youth Justice Milwaukee. “It’s important to give young people and impacted community members a seat at the table during discussions that directly affect their families and lives. We know a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t worked. We need to listen to the needs of young people and invest in communities, rather than more wasteful and ineffective brick-and-mortar facilities.”

“Despite the progress we’ve seen, black teens are three times more likely to be arrested than white youth in Wisconsin and are still 15 times more likely to be incarcerated,” said Jeff Roman, co-founder of Youth Justice Milwaukee. “We cannot separate racial justice from our youth prison system, which is why it’s essential that Milwaukee communities have a say in how our state restructures the system. Far too often a room full of white elected officials decide our fates, when our community knows what we need to be safer and more successful. We know more youth prisons is not the way forward.”

Since launching in 2017, Youth Justice Milwaukee has worked diligently to close Wisconsin’s abusive youth prisons and fighting for true justice reform. Co-founders of YJM Sharlen Moore and Jeff Roman attended the community meeting as well as State Senator Lena Taylor, State Assembly Candidate Kalan Haywood II, and other community leaders.

Summary of Act 185

  • In March 2018, the Wisconsin legislature passed Act 185 to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons by January 1, 2021 and convert the facilities into an adult prison
  • The bill was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker and enacted in April 2018.
  • The legislation also restructures the state’s juvenile correctional facilities and youth justice system.
  • It creates new Type 1 facilities, like Lincoln Hills, where young people who are deemed “serious juvenile offenders” will be sent.
  • In addition to the Type 1 facilities, the Act gives counties the ability to create new facilities overseen by the State Department of Corrections, called Secure Residential Care Centers for Children and Youth (SRCCCY).
  • The law also created a Study Committee that must set forth rules for these secure care facilities by September 2018.
  • The Study Committee is made up of elected officials, with very few members of the most impacted communities or young people.
  • The Study Committee began meeting in late July 2018. During August 2018, overseen by the Department of Corrections, the Study Committee ranked recommendations for the secure care facilities by importance to the committee members. Many essential pieces like transparency and guaranteeing access to family members were ranked at the bottom of the list.
  • Operations for programs in these secure facilities can be partially funded through Youth Aids funds, money that is normally used to create in-community programs for at-risk young people and invested in counseling programs or credible messenger leaders.
  • The Act also made a Grant Committee that counties must submit applications for funding to construct new facilities by March 31, 2019.

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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