January 4, 2016
Statement from Senator Chris Larson on Changing the Culture of Youth Incarceration in Wisconsin
MADISON – Senator Chris Larson issued the following statement regarding LRB 3958 – a step towards addressing the problems with youth incarceration in Wisconsin.
“Over the past couple weeks, serious and disturbing information regarding abuse at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls have come to light. As more details emerge regarding this situation, it disheartening to learn that our children have allegedly suffered physical and sexual abuse at a facility run by Governor Walker’s Department of Corrections. In the coming weeks, it is critical we come up with a solution that keeps both our children and the staff at Lincoln Hills safe. However, in the meantime, it is clear we shouldn't send another Milwaukee County youth to Lincoln Hills until we have that guarantee.
“When young people in our community encounter the juvenile justice system, it is vital that we take an approach that will help these children to succeed upon release. Traditional correctional programs often cause further harm and does not maximize the chance of success for our youth.
“As an elected official that represents the Milwaukee area, it is alarming that the majority of the youth at Lincoln Hills – which is isolated in northcentral Wisconsin – are actually from over 200 miles away from the facility. With the air still filled with the holiday spirit, it is incomprehensible to know that many of these children may not have been able to see their family during a season meant to be spent with loved ones. For these reasons, Representative Goyke, Representative Barnes, and I have circulated a bill for co-sponsorship that is modeled after a successful approach to youth incarceration spearheaded by the state of Missouri. This approach focuses using smaller facilities closer to home and has shown to produce better outcomes while saving the state money. This bill, LRB 3958, would require the Department of Corrections to study the potential to implement this model in Wisconsin.
“It is time Wisconsin changes the culture of incarceration, particularly for our youth. Along with this bill, I will continue to work with local and state leaders to develop a strategy to keep our youth closer to home and in safe, supportive, and secure environment.”