National Justice Reform Campaign Includes Lincoln Hills In Call To Close Youth Prisons

Group Advocates Fewer Incarcerations, Smaller Secure Housing Facilities

Glen Moberg/WPR

A national juvenile justice reform group is calling for governors in 39 states to close 80 of the country’s oldest youth prisons, including Wisconsin’s Lincoln Hills School.

Youth First is launching its campaign Thursday to close the prisons. Executive director Liz Ryan said a recent national poll shows strong support for locking up fewer young offenders and using the savings to establish smaller secure housing units for the minority who pose a serious public safety threat.

“A large number of these children have high needs but are not high risk. And so for (the) more than $100,000 a year that’s being paid to place kids in Lincoln Hills, that $100,000 could be used much more effectively in community based programming.”

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A federal investigation into alleged child abuse at Lincoln Hills has prompted a Milwaukee legislator to introduce a bill requiring the state to study closing the school and creating a network of smaller institutions.

The governors of Virginia, Connecticut and Illinois have already pledged to close the largest and oldest youth prisons in their states.