Juvenile Incarceration Rates Have Been Dropping In Wisconsin


A report from the National Juvenile Justice Network gives Wisconsin high marks for reducing the number of juveniles it locks up each year.

The report lists Wisconsin in the top nine states that have made substantial positive reforms in the way it treats juvenile offenders. Titled the Comeback States, the report says Wisconsin’s juvenile incarceration rate dropped by more than 40 percent between 2001 and 2010. In 2001 there were more than 1,900 teens behind bars compared to just over 1,100 in 2010.

Jim Moeser of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families attributes the change to two policies the state has followed:

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“One is at the local level – better assessment of which kids really need this kind of confinement. Secondly, the development of more local programs that…can meet the kids’ needs but also provides protection for the community.”

Moeser says the improvements in Wisconsin are part of a nationwide decline in juvenile incarceration, but he says kids who commit violent offenses are still getting locked up.

Despite this progress in finding non-jail alternatives for dealing delinquency, Moeser says there’s still need for improvement in how law enforcement and the corrections system deal with kids who suffer from mental illness. He says too many such teens end up behind bars instead of in a treatment program that can address their illness.