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Thinking big on juvenile justice reform

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It used to be, politicians tended to be big thinkers. They set ambitious goals, and figured out ways to achieve things that had not been done before. We did send a man to the moon after all. But lately it seems our politicians simply react to things. If there is a crisis, they try to patch it. But one Wisconsin politician is thinking big when it comes to juvenile justice reform. Wisconsin is making plans to shutter its Lincoln Hill School for Boys, the state’s troubled juvenile prison. Instead, a series of smaller lockups would be scattered across the state. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is hoping to use these changes to change the way we treat young offenders. He wants a facility in his county to become a national model for youth corrections. Those housed there would not just be locked up and pepper sprayed. There would be more education, vocational training and mental health support. Abele says such treatment reduces recidivism and returns young lawbreakers to their community with skills allowing them to be successful and productive citizens. Our state lawmakers should follow Abele’s lead, and use this opportunity to make sure not just Milwaukee County, but all of Wisconsin, embraces juvenile justice reform. Now is the time to think big.

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