Former Vice President Joe Biden once said, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.”

It’s true. There’s no better way to show your priorities than literally putting your money where your mouth is.

On February 8th, Governor Scott Walker released his two-year state budget. Do you know how many pages and how much money he dedicated to creating new facilities in Milwaukee to solve our juvenile justice crisis?

Zero. Zip. None. Nada. Did you know that it’s been over two years since the state Department of Justice launched its criminal investigation of Lincoln Hills?

Two whole years.

State Sen. Lena Taylor
State Sen. Lena Taylor

Allegations and now lawsuits about child abuse and mismanagement plague our juvenile corrections system.

The latest horror story out of Copper Lake took my breath away. A teenage girl attempted suicide, leaving her with permanent brain damage.

Her family is currently suing the facility for failing to act on warning signs to prevent her suicide attempt. She’s not the only child to have their life changed for the worse by our “corrections” system.

What more has to happen for this issue to be taken seriously? At what point does governor Walker say enough is enough?

Two years of inaction is a long time, especially for the youth housed at these facilities whose childhood is passing them by without proper behavioral correction.

It shouldn’t surprise you that the Governor has misplaced priorities.

Obviously, this came as no surprise. What were we supposed to expect from a Governor who’s never stepped foot in a prison during the past six years?

Governor Walker told us that investing in a smaller juvenile corrections facility in Milwaukee County wasn’t a budget priority of his, and unfortunately, he didn’t change his mind. I can’t say that we didn’t expect this.

That’s why I sent the Governor a letter earlier this week asking him to call a special legislative session on Lincoln Hills to address these concerns. If this sounds like déjà vu, you’re not going crazy; last April I also asked for a special session on Lincoln Hills.

But I refuse to be ignored.

I’m asking for change because the current system is broken.

We need to make sure these children are taken care of when in the hands of the state. The Division of Juvenile Corrections needs to be moved to the Department of Children and Families to ensure our children are not sent to solitary confinement as a punishment.

When children are in our care, regardless of their age or their criminal record, we must focus on healing them, not harming them. That’s why I back more trauma-informed care.

While we hear about all the negative coming out of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, there’s a lot of positive coming out of the Grow Academy.

The Grow Academy is another juvenile corrections facility also being run by the Department of Corrections. Grow is a small facility that promotes healthy lifestyles through agriculture and sustainability as a tool to guide troubled youth to a successful future.

In this upcoming state budget, I will advocate we replicate the Grow Academy in Milwaukee County to ensure our troubled youth have a local option for a better future.

Written by State Sen. Lena Taylor

State Sen. Lena Taylor

Wisconsin State Sen. Lena Taylor represents the 4th State Senate District in Milwaukee.