The League of Women Voters is pleased with Gov. Walker’s efforts to address the long-standing problems at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools. Last year, we urged the Joint Finance Committee to support the establishment of a committee to study the Missouri Model, a basis for the governor’s reform plans.
We also applaud Walker’s stated intent to focus on mental health and trauma-informed care instead of punitive detention and restrictions. His proposal for small facilities throughout the state would enable the young inmates to retain family ties and hope for their futures. Both reforms have proved their worth in other states.
But, we join Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R) and Rep. David Bowen (D) in urging faster action than is contemplated in the governor’s plans. Those plans are contingent on his re-election and might not be implemented until after 2019. Meanwhile, reforms at the juvenile facilities move at a glacier pace and only as a result of court orders.
We do not need to wait for an election to improve conditions for the young offenders and the staff. Last December, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced bills (AB 791-SB 651) that would result in similar reforms to those proposed by Governor Walker. Rep. Evan Goyke (D) briefed the legislature on the bills in November. His document “Inmate 501” is a masterful analysis of reforms implemented in other states and how Wisconsin might learn from them.
We urge an immediate hearing on AB 791 as a first and necessary step toward the reforms that are long overdue.