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Hayward: 17-year-olds in adult prison
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Hayward: 17-year-olds in adult prison

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One of the items that was taken out of Governor Evers' budget dealt with the issue of automatically charging 17-year-olds in the adult prison system.

Wisconsin is only one of three states that still do this.

Based on my decades of experience as a high school teacher, there is no way most 17-year-olds should be housed with adult prisoners where they are exponentially more likely to be sexually assaulted and 36 times more likely to commit suicide.

One hundred percent of incarcerated female youth and 72% of incarcerated male youth suffer from mental health challenges which will only worsen due to the trauma they encounter in adult prison.

In the Juvenile Justice system they receive rehabilitative programming and are able to obtain their high school diplomas making them much less likely to return to prison and much more likely to become contributing members of our communities.

The only stumbling block to this happening is the need for state funding to support counties as they bring 17-year-olds into the juvenile justice system. Since the state is already paying (through our taxes) for them to be in adult prison, this would be a positive and much needed change for all concerned.

After I testified about this to the Joint Finance Committee when they met in Whitewater this spring, a woman came up to me in tears and said her 17-year-old son had committed suicide 16 years ago while in adult prison. She could not believe that we had not yet rectified this situation!

Tamerin Hayward, Racine

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