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Committee to Oversee Juvenile Justice Overhaul Beginning Next Week

State Rep. Evan Goyke

Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) has announced that he will be a part of a 24-person committee tasked with implementing a refined system for Juvenile justice, which will include people from all across the system including judges, defense attorneys and public officials.

Goyke will sit on one of two committees that will review different aspects of the new juvenile system beginning on July 25.

The specific focus of Goyke’s committee will be to receive applications from Wisconsin counties and give grants to those counties to fund their housing needs for juvenile offenders.

With recent legislative changes, the 119 juveniles currently at Lincoln Hills will be shipped off to different facilities which will provide a more community oriented focus as well as programs to combat recidivism.

The State of Wisconsin will still be in charge of supervising the most violent and dangerous juveniles and the State will utilize a revamped Mendota Treatment Center to house those offenders.

But the main bulk of juvenile offenders will be housed closer to their homes in the counties from which they came.

As a result, Milwaukee county is expected to need to provide a facility for nearly half of the current juvenile population, while Dane County will also have to house a bulk of the offenders. Goyke estimates that most counties, including Dane, will just remodel or repurpose their existing facilities.

The committee Goyke will serve on is tasked with first coming up with a set of rules that will govern the county facilities. They will have to agree to adhere to a standard set of rules for programming, staff training and security.

Counties will then apply for grant funding for the new and revamped facilities, do whatever construction is necessary, and then open the facility to juvenile offenders.

More rural and isolated counties are expected to regionalize into one facility that serves a greater area.

“We are evolving so that the placements at the county level will be at facilities that are better staffed and more modern,” Goyke told Madison365. “Recidivism will drop because the quality of the facilities will be improved. This is a mandate to improve what we’re doing with juveniles.”

As of January 2021, Lincoln Hills will no longer be allowed to house any juveniles but will be used, most likely, to house adult offenders and ease the prison overcrowding taking place in Wisconsin.

The State is utilizing three pots of money to reform the juvenile system. The first pot of funding is going to be used to expand the capacity of Mendota Mental Health Center where the neediest and most dangerous youth offenders are being sent under the reformed system. The second pot of money is for counties to be awarded grants for their new juvenile facilities. And the third pot of money is for the Department of Corrections to build facilities to house dangerous offenders.

“What we’re looking at accommodating is roughly 130 juvenile offenders,” Goyke said. “The State will supervise the most serious offenders who are waived into adult court. Milwaukee is looking at accommodating roughly half of that population. So the rest of the counties are looking at having to house about 75-80 total offenders.”

The final deadline for all of the committee work, grants, and construction of new facilities is the January 2021 date when Lincoln Hills will no longer be able to function as a juvenile facility.