RACINE — With the recent announcement by Gov. Scott Walker to overhaul the juvenile corrections system — including closing the troubled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools complex in Irma — officials have been working to determine how the new system would operate.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he met with some of the governor’s officials on Tuesday to iron out more details.
Although details about how the new facilities will operate have not been revealed yet, Vos said this could be an opportunity for counties to get involved to reduce cost and create healthy competition “as to which facility has the best practices that could reduce recidivism.”
“Perhaps there’s a way we can form a partnership where counties, who pay 100 percent of the costs anyway, could be the ones that operate the facility,” Vos said during a visit to The Journal Times Editorial Board on Wednesday, accompanied by state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine. “Maybe the state gives them a grant to build the facility but they operate it because they’re responsible for it.”
Vos said the counties with the facilities could look for different ways to increase services, reduce cost and have better outcomes.
“I just think that’s a better model, in my opinion, than just saying five facilities do the exact same thing and hope for the best,” Vos said.
Vos complimented the way Racine County runs its Alternatives to Corrections through Education (ACE) program.
The program, based on the fourth floor of the county’s secure detention facility on Taylor Avenue, includes four hours of school each day and programming until 8 p.m., six days a week. Youth in ACE are required to participate in group programs where they learn about things like anger management, leadership and criminal thinking. Participants also take part in individual therapy as well as therapy with a caregiver or parent.
The cost to the county to house a child in state corrections is $397 a day. In contrast, the ACE program costs the county $185 per day, per child.
For Racine County youths who spend time in the state corrections facility, 99 percent re-offend within 12 months of discharge.
For those who complete the ACE program, that rate drops to 25 percent.
Families involved in ‘healing’
Wanggaard said the counties could have the manpower and resources to make a positive impact, especially since the facilities would likely be closer in proximity for the families of those detained.
“If you keep it local … you’re going to have better outcomes because you don’t have transportation issues for the families,” Wanggaard said. “(The families) can be part of this healing process.”
But overall, Wanggaard said the goal is to get those juveniles to be productive members of society.
“I’m not looking to rehabilitate anybody, this is not what we should be doing,” Wanggaard said. “I’m looking to reform them.”