Milwaukee County Looking for Alternatives to Sending Juveniles to Lincoln Hills
The investigation into the abuse of children at Lincoln Hills could go on for another year. So far, at least 16 staff members have been removed from their positions at the juvenile detention facility in northern Wisconsin. Milwaukee County is now exploring options other than sending local youth to Lincoln Hills.
Lincoln Hills is about a three hour drive north of Milwaukee. On Wednesday, Milwaukee County Chief Judge Maxine White told a panel of county supervisors that she and others have been meeting weekly to figure out where to place local juveniles, rather than sending them to the troubled center. But obstacles exist.
“We do not have what those kids need in Milwaukee. For example, we have the child whose toes were severed by having a door slammed on him. That person is in Milwaukee’s detention facility. He has other needs other than just to be safe from bad treatment. We’re holding him here, but we don’t have mental health and all those interventions that he should be getting in a place,” White says.
Milwaukee County has an alternative juvenile corrections program known as MCAP. However, it lacks certain services and there are limits to how long a person can stay. Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic wants to explore expanding MCAP, housing kids at the behavioral health facility and sending more to Racine.
“This is an emergency situation. If we had time I would take a person center approach to everyone, but I’m telling you every hour that goes by, that a child from Milwaukee County is in Lincoln Hills is a minute too long,” Dimitrijevic says.
But Judge Mary Triggiano warns supervisors that moving too fast could lead to other problems.
“We gotta be careful. We can’t become like Lincoln Hills has become by doing something too quick, but we also have to act quick. So we’re in this really difficult situation,” Triggiano says.
There are currently 200 Milwaukee kids at Lincoln Hills.
“I can say with confidence that we are not sure if our kids are safe, and that’s a problem. It’s a real big concern for all of us,” Colon says.
That’s Hector Colon, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services. He says it plans to reevaluate every kid from Milwaukee County serving time at Lincoln Hills, to determine their needs.
Meanwhile, members of the county board are urging County Executive Chris Abele to explore every option available to keep Milwaukee’s juveniles safe.