This is the last in a three-part series about closing the illegal youth prisons in Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake (LH/CL). Part one outlined the best, fastest way to close these prisons. Part two re-examined the sordid tale of compromises that left the prisons open, and the millions of dollars the democrats are trying to spend on new ones. In this part, we’ll take a look at what could be funded with those millions instead.
The actual needs of Milwaukee youth
Democrats are trying to spend $42-46 million on a new prison in Milwaukee county that would cage 36 children. At the low end, that’s $1.17 million each child. Last February there were 22 kids from Milwaukee county in LH/CL who this new prison would be built for. That’s about $2 million each child. That’s ridiculous.
This is the second in a three-part series about closing the illegal youth prisons in Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake (LH/CL). Part one outlined the best and fastest way to close these prisons: by eliminating the Serious Juvenile Offender Program (SJOP) and adult sentencing of youths. These bad laws were inspired by the racist “superpredator” myth which requires the state to lock some kids in extra harmful “type 1” facilities. In part two, we’re going to examine why that didn’t happen, and the foolishness that happened instead.
The Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons (LH/CL) in Irma, WI have been illegally confining children since July 1, 2021. More than seventy percent of the kids are Black, and nearly half are from Milwaukee county. Starting in 2010, kids in these prisons successfully exposed horrific abuse practices by staff. By 2017, the kids and their advocates had drawn investigations from the media, the state, and federal agencies. They built so much momentum that the legislature passed and the governor signed Wisconsin act 185, which required that both prisons close by January 1, 2021.
Unfortunately, when that date approached, rather than closing the prisons, politicians passed a new law pushing closure back to July 1. The second deadline passed this summer, and the prisons were not closed. No new law extended the deadline. The state just continued operating illegally.
Which sends a pretty clear statement: Wisconsin politicians are willing to ignore and violate state law when it comes to abusing Black kids from Milwaukee.
On Thursday May 7, the leaders of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) demonstrated a profound disdain for most people in Wisconsin. They removed 390 items from consideration in the budget process, including very popular measures like marijuana legalization, BadgerCare expansion, education opportunities, youth justice reform, taxing the rich, driver’s licenses for immigrants, and many many others. These were the JFC’s very first votes on the budget, and the way senator Howard Marklein and representative Mark Born ran the meeting showed their eagerness to rip off the people on behalf of their rich friends.
Despite many cultural differences, Wisconsin’s prison system has a similar negative impact on people in both under-resourced rural communities and Milwaukee’s northside. Those who have been cut out of the jobs economy, who’ve been marginalized and neglected by political elites, business owners, and corporations, are more likely to struggle with addiction, despair, and violence. We know what comes next – they end up going to prison.
In prison, negligence, abuse, and confinement cause great and lasting harm. People then return with that trauma to the same struggling communities they were taken from. The addedhe stigma of a criminal record further removes them from economic opportunities. They become more likely to resort to crimes of survival, or of addiction and emotional distress. In this way, prison drives up crime. It contributes to a cycle of harmful behavior, of people hurting their neighbors. Continue reading “Prison Hurts All of Wisconsin.”
Politicians in Madison want to build a prison, maybe two prisons. They want more cages in this state to hold people in. The leadership of both parties have prison-expansion plans in the upcoming budget, and if we do not fight back, these plans will go forward. More of our friends and neighbors will live behind bars. More people will suffer in solitary confinement. More will face racial or gender harassment, terror, negligence and abuse from prison guards as well as from medical and psychological staff.