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Wisconsin Corrections Officials Want Minors to Begin Sentences in Juvenile Facilities
Date: December 13, 2016 09:25AM

Wisconsin Corrections Officials Want Minors to Begin Sentences in Juvenile Facilities

According to several articles published by the Associated Press, Wisconsin corrections officials want minors convicted in adult court to begin their sentences in a juvenile facility.

In its state budget request, the Department of Corrections has asked legislators to change the law that currently sends 16- and 17-year-old criminals to adult prisons. Those minors who are sentenced to prison in the adult system would begin serving their time at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls.

The change would give young offenders age-appropriate treatment and align with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, according to the department's budget request. The Prison Rape Elimination Act requires prison staff to house minors away from adults 18 and older.

Holding minors in juvenile facilities — even those convicted as adults — makes common sense, according to Michael Caldwell, psychology lecturer at UW-Madison and an expert on juvenile delinquency. "Younger kids are hard to manage in an adult setting; there's plenty of research to support that," Caldwell said.

"This change would be consistent with state- and national-level advocacy for removing minors from adult prisons and providing them with age-appropriate services in juvenile facilities," states the corrections budget request. The change would give the DOC more options to appropriately house sentenced minors.

There are beds available in the juvenile centers for teens convicted as adults, Caldwell said. And juvenile offense rates are down nationally over the last 20 years, he said.

State Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Stettin, does not think the Department of Corrections' proposal will be controversial and expects it to survive the budget process. Previously, Petrowski had worked on a different policy to keep 17-year-olds who are first-time, non-violent offenders, in the juvenile system. The original proposal failed, but its supporters will make another try, Petrowski said. Current state law directs all 17-year-olds to adult courts.

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