Petitioning Governor Scott Walker and 2 others

Bring Our Youth Home: Close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Now!

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For years, the state of Wisconsin has failed to protect some of our most vulnerable youth while they are incarcerated at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons.

Youth prisons hurt our youth. While in the custody of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, dozens of youth have been abused, injured, and sexually assaulted without so much as an investigation by the state. While other jurisdictions across the country are moving away from large, state-run youth prisons to community based, community driven solutions, Milwaukee County and Wisconsin have not. In fact, the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prison campus is the largest youth prison in the country.

Youth prisons do not make our communities safer. Research has provided critical insight into the harmful effects of youth incarceration. Not only is reliance on youth incarceration counterproductive in promoting public safety, it poses irreparable psychological and social damage to adolescent growth and development. There is clear evidence that a system focused on rehabilitation and prevention yields far better results in diverting youth from the juvenile justice system; decreasing the chance of a young person committing another delinquent act; and ensuring that those currently in the system have an opportunity to reunite with their families, re-enter their communities and develop into productive citizens.

Youth prisons continue to perpetuate racial and ethnic disparities. A key reason for Milwaukee County to undertake comprehensive juvenile justice reform is to tackle the persistent racial and ethnic inequities in Wisconsin’s juvenile justice system. Although these disparities have been declining over the past decade, Wisconsin still ranks in the top five least equitable states, with disparities that far exceed the national average. The vast majority of youth committed to Wisconsin state facilities are African American. In 2014, African American youth made up almost 70% of youth committed to juvenile correctional facilities in the state, but only about 10% of Wisconsin’s total youth population.

Youth prisons are a waste of tax payer dollars. Responsibility for providing juvenile programs and services should be in the hands of the county where youth live and the money to incarcerate should be used to rehabilitate. It costs over $100,000 a year to place 1 youth at Lincoln Hills. Milwaukee County should follow the lead other large counties across the country to bring youth home from the state run youth prison and fund placements and programs in their communities. Prisons don’t work.

Today, we sign this petition to BRING OUR YOUTH HOME and let us work with county stakeholders to provide an array of services for youth who come in contact with the law because Prisons DON’T WORK.

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