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As I See It

Major reforms needed at Wisconsin’s juvenile lockups



Every day we hear more troubling allegations out of Wisconsin’s juvenile lockup. The Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls are under investigation by the FBI over allegations of sexual assault, child neglect, prisoner abuse and other crimes. Making matters worse is that those in charge of the state’s juvenile lockup failed to communicate the reports of assaults within the prison walls to the teens parents, or even to police. They have been trying to sweep all this under the rug for some time. Former Secretary of Corrections Ed Wall has stepped down amid the investigation, replaced just this week by John Litscher. He has a big task trying to bring reform to this mess. But what is really needed is fundamental reform in how Wisconsin treats its young lawbreakers. An editorial by the Annie E. Casey Foundation suggests the state needs to start over, suggesting it is time to close these large juvenile lockups, which they argue are inherently prone to abuse. They argue for closing this prison entirely, calling them “factories of failure.” With the level of abuse and coverups now capturing the attention of the federal government, it seems what the state needs is not to make subtle changes, but to completely start over when it comes to how we treat juvenile offenders. Our lawmakers should investigate who was responsible for this massive failure, and figure out a way to prevent it from happening again.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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