Act 8: Delaying juvenile justice reform
WJI is providing summaries of justice-related laws adopted in the 2019-20 legislative session.
2019 Act 8 – Delays closing of scandal-plagued juvenile prisons Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake from Jan. 1, 2021 to July 1, 2021. Also allows the Department of Correction to temporarily move juveniles out of Lincoln Hills to a qualifying juvenile detention facility prior to the opening of new state secure facilities; eliminates the requirement that, to qualify for funding, some secured residential care centers for children and youth (SRCCCYs) be only for females; allows counties with SRCCYs that serve out-of-county residents to qualify for youth aid bonuses; and generally requires approval of the local governing body before the state makes changes to a state secure facility.
The law was introduced as AB 188; its companion Senate bill was SB 168.
The bill passed the Senate, 33-0; the Assembly approved it without a roll call vote. It was signed by Gov. Tony Evers on June 28, 2019.
The legislation was a trailer bill to 2017 Act 185.
Department of Corrections –Previously estimated it would cost $1,186,000 in FY20 and $10,544,800 in FY21 to establish one secure juvenile facility and provide supporting staff by January 1, 2021.
This bill will move the closure date of (Lincoln Hills) and (Copper Lake) into FY22. Prior to opening the new... (secure facilities), DOC will need budget and position authority to begin the process of hiring staff, developing institution policies and procedures, and developing programs. In accordance with DOC's staffing plan, budget and position authority will still be needed in FY20 and FY21 for a July 1, 2021 deadline....The impact of this bill will require DOC to simultaneously work to establish new Type 1 JCFs while continuing to provide services at its existing Type 1 JCFs. This bill does provide any additional budget or position authority increase.
Department of Children and Families – Unknown.
Department of Health Services –Unknown. Governor's budget provided $3,159,500 and 50.5 full-time equivalent positions in existing to open a 14-bed expansion using existing space at Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center. An additional $59 million budgeted for a 50-bed addition for both males and females. Legislation, however, did not include funding for staffing the expansions.
Department of Public Instruction – Unknown.
Department of Safety and Professional Services – None.
Legislative Audit Bureau – Unknown.
Rep. Michael Schraa – I was in the room when Governor Walker agreed to extend the original timeline to accomplish this momentous task. Although he was committed to his ambitious timeline, he agreed to allow more time in deference to the needs of the counties.
Several legislators have asked why we want to extend the timeline yet again. I absolutely do not support Governor Evers' proposal for an indefinite timeline. Troubled youth deserve a timely solution.
Unfortunately, we lost a lot of momentum in the executive transition. The result of which is that the counties have not received the timely response from the Juvenile Corrections Grant Committee that we had envisioned. The counties have requested six more months, so it is in everyone's best interest to make it possible for them to participate. I cannot stress strongly enough that the state cannot accomplish this juvenile corrections reform without the full participation of the counties.
Shannon Reed, DOC assistant deputy secretary – In our current system, local law enforcement officials, human services agencies, prosecutors, and judges have significant discretion and influence on whether and how youth land in secure facilities at the county level or at the state Department of Corrections. The decision to place youth in a secure setting rather than a less secure residential facility, or some other diversionary or community-based justice program, is decided at the local level.
So, it is not enough to simply want there to be fewer children placed in secure settings, as many in this room have stated. It is a matter of all of us who have influence in this process to work together toward the trauma-informed programming, consistent staff training, community involvement, mental and physical health services, and other steps that research tells us increases the likelihood that youth will successfully re-integrate into their families and communities.
Right now, there are 168 youth assigned to Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools. This is a decrease of nearly 80% over the past 17 years. Today, 90% of our youth are identified as having one or more significantly adverse childhood experiences and almost half of the youth are enrolled in special education. More than 75% of the boys and 100% of the girls at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake are receiving mental health services, in addition to the about 13% of boys who are currently placed at Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center for a serious mental health condition.
As Governor Evers said yesterday, we want to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake but we also have to look at the entire youth justice system that considers the continuum of offenses and offenders and where they are mentally and educationally. We at DOC agree a comprehensive plan for juvenile justice in this state is the best path forward. We urge all those who care about the youth involved in the juvenile justice system to consider Act 185 and these technical fixes just the first step in reforming the way we help young people never return to a Department of Corrections facility. Youth justice should not be punitive. It should be a place where vulnerable children - no matter what bad decisions they have made - have the opportunity to overcome the trauma they have experienced in their young lives, receive the education and health treatment services they deserve, and learn the skills necessary to grow into citizens who will successfully contribute to their communities and to our state.
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County, and the National Association of Social Workers – Wisconsin Chapter and the Wisconsin Counties Association registered in favor of the bill.
There were no registrations against the bill.
The main authors of AB 188 were Schraa (R-Oshkosh) and State Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee).
Its two main co-sponsors were State Senators Van H. Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee).
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