RACINE — After legislation Gov. Scott Walker signed into law in March to restructure the juvenile corrections system, discussion is underway about how Racine County fits into that plan.
The law, Wisconsin Act 185, restructures the juvenile corrections system, closing the troubled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile correctional facilities, while offering $80 million in grants to create new facilities. The opportunity for counties across the state to build and operate new residential care centers for juveniles was discussed last week at a Racine County Human Services Department meeting.
The law creates two new Type 1 facilities for serious juvenile offenders and juveniles convicted as adults. It also creates new Secure Residential Care Centers for Children and Youth for non-SJO correctional placements.
Racine County has expressed interest in applying for a grant to place a secure residential care facility within the county. A 10-member Juvenile Corrections Grant Committee is to award a grant providing 95 percent of the design and construction costs to build it. The act also created a 25-member Juvenile Corrections Study Committee, which will consider future programming and possible locations for the facilities.
The county would have until March 31, 2019 to submit its grant application to the grant committee. The county would essentially run the center, but would be subject to state Department of Corrections requirements related to programming and services that must be provided to juveniles.
Edward Kamin, the superintendent of the Juvenile Detention Center in Racine County, is a member of the Juvenile Corrections Study Committee.
“It’s a very, very compressed timeline, which is why we are doing our due diligence now to be able to come back to you with as much information as we can to be able to make an educated decision on if this is a good idea, and if this is what Racine wants,” he said last week.
Kamin said that it’s almost a given that one of the Type 1 facilities will be located somewhere in southeastern Wisconsin, given the high number of juveniles across the region. The location for the center, however, has not been discussed. The $80 million act authorizes up to $40 million for establishing or constructing the facilities.
Act 185 would reimburse the school district in which a facility is located in for educational services provided to the juveniles in the facility, according to the DOC. One of the key recommendations made by the committee said that youth in the facilities should have opportunities to reach high school graduation.
“Most of these kids, when they are in detention, become who they really are,” said Kamin, who has been a superintendent for nearly three years. “The real challenge is when a kid gets back home, and they become who they feel they have to be in order to survive.”
No final locations for any of the facilities have yet been announced.