Monday, March 21, 2011

What Changes will Consolidating Juvenile Facilities Bring?

As the Division of Juvenile Corrections (DJC) begins the process of closing two juvenile correctional institutions (JCI) - Ethan Allen School for Boys and Southern Oaks School for Girls - and consolidating all functions at one facility – Lincoln Hills School for Boys and, on the same property the Copper Lake School for Girls – we will begin to see how these changes may impact other aspects of the juvenile justice system.  For sure, there are innumerable internal issues related to this change that DJC will be working to resolve – staffing impacts, facility modifications, program re-design, closing facilities, etc. – but counties may react by looking for additional alternatives to sending their youth so far from home.  Remember that roughly 70% of all JCI placements come from the southeast quadrant of the state.  An example of a system change that may move forward is the unanimous endorsement by the Milwaukee County Board to support a change in statute that would allow a juvenile judge to “sentence” a youth to a local juvenile facility (vs. the state JCI) for up to 180 days.  While this has a long way to go, and there would be concerns about “net widening downward”, this could create some flexibility to keep kids closer to home.  It will take a while for the system to adjust, but counties have proven already that they can develop local alternatives that redirect youth and keep the community safe for many of their youth. 

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