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As I See It

Show me state shows how to keep peace in juvenile prisons

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The problems at Wisconsin’s juvenile prison have been well documented. And they are not getting better. The FBI continues to investigate allegations of assault of inmates by prison staff. Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of those inmates. There have been attacks on guards by inmates, while staff rely on shackles and solitary confinement to deal with unruly. Not a pretty picture as we seek to reform our most troubled youth. But perhaps Wisconsin is going about it the wrong way. Perhaps we should look to the state of Missouri as a model for how to better confine and rehabilitate our most serious juvenile offenders. There, young inmates are not sent to some huge, far away lockup. They are kept in one of a series of smaller facilities scattered throughout the state to keep the teens closer to their families. Prisoners wear street clothes, not jail uniforms. The teens get educational opportunities and group projects. They don’t rely on shackles and solitary confinement, and haven’t needed to. There have been far fewer attacks on guards on Missouri compared to Wisconsin’s juvenile lockup. And there have been fewer suicide attempts in the Missouri model. The bottom line is what is happening in Wisconsin isn’t working. Guards are under attack, and prisoners claim they are being abused. There is a better way, and Missouri is showing us just how that can be done.

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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