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Group Beseeches Wisconsin to Close Lincoln Hills, Create Local Options for Young Offenders

Dept. of Corrections
Group says Lincoln Hills too much like an adult prison

A national advocacy campaign is calling on states to close all juvenile detention centers, starting with the oldest and "most notorious." High on the list is Lincoln Hills in northern Wisconsin.

Federal authorities are investigating reports that young people there have been abused and neglected.

The allegations don’t surprise Liz Ryan, CEO of Youth First. The group is urging communities to create local options for young offenders.

Ryan says many juvenile facilities have all the features of adult prisons.

They have features of adult prisons like physical features – barbed wire fences, razor-wire fences, locked rooms. They use correctional practices that adult prisons rely on – solitary confinement, use of restraints, and what you see is that abuse tends to occur,” Ryan says.

Ryan claims dozens of youth prisons are harmful, racially-biased, ineffective and expensive. She says the number of lawsuits and investigations about abuses have been mounting over the years.

Ryan says some counties have moved to community-based programs that provide a range of services, based on what the young person needs. She says some simply need after-school programming or an evening reporting center, while those deemed dangerous and likely to re-offend may need secure care. She says the number of youth in that latter category is small compared with the large number of young inmates housed at a center such as Lincoln Hills.

According to Ryan, recidivism rates have dropped in many communities that have created local services and there is a tremendous cost-savings. She estimates the typical non-residential option at $75 a day per offender, while the daily bill can reach $240 at a state facility.

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