We Need Data-Driven Reforms to Milwaukee’s Juvenile Justice System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 6, 2017
CONTACT: Ianthe Metzger| Ianthe.Metzger@berlinrosen.org | 202-800-8169

MILWAUKEE – Today, in response to the increasing calls to reform the juvenile justice system in Milwaukee, Youth Justice Milwaukee (YJM), a coalition of community organizations, youth advocates and family members of youth involved in the juvenile justice system, released the following statement:

“We are members of the Milwaukee community. We want our families, neighbors, and friends to be safe in their homes and their neighborhoods. YJM agrees that our current system is in urgent need of reform. However, we must act rationally and invest in interventions that are proven to reduce our youths’ risk for future offenses. We must not react out of fear and pursue unduly harsh penalties that further damage young people and have proven to be ineffective.

“We need to start with a review of Milwaukee’s juvenile justice system from top to bottom. We need to develop a comprehensive understanding of how our current system is helping – or why it is failing – our young people. This process must include the community, especially the young people and families that are most impacted by the current juvenile justice system.

“Each year, Wisconsin spends a total $162,800,000 to upkeep its failing juvenile justice system, and at Lincoln Hills alone, the cost to incarcerate one youth surpassed $100,000 in 2013, and continued to rise. A smarter, economically efficient, and more just approach would be to follow the lead of states that are closing youth prisons and redirecting funds in effective community-based alternatives to incarceration.

“A recent report published by the National Collaboration for Youth, Beyond Bars, Keeping Young People Safe at Home and Out of Youth Prisons, demonstrates that every community, regardless of economic circumstances, has assets that can make a positive impact on at-risk youth without relying on locking kids up. Instead of incarcerating children, communities should take advantage of a wide range of existing resources that are more likely to help young people change course and thrive. That’s why Youth Justice Milwaukee continues to call on state officials to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, and instead redirect funds to community-based treatment programs that are proven to achieve better outcomes.

“Components of such a “continuum of care” may include: respite for families, services to improve behavioral health and treat substance use, holistic victim services, building future economic opportunity, access to education, safe places to recreate, gang intervention, restorative justice, mobile crisis and intervention, mentoring, and programs for youth who cannot successfully complete traditional programming.

“YJM is committed to working with community members and decisions makers at all levels to do what is necessary to reform the juvenile justice system and keep our youth and our communities safe. Community members are welcome to join us at our next YJM collation meeting, Wednesday April 12th at Urban Underground from 2-4pm, to participate in these critical conversations.

“We recognize and share the Milwaukee community’s frustration with our broken juvenile justice system. To move forward and improve outcomes, we must make well-informed choices based on what the evidence has shown will work best.”

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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