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Milwaukee County in Talks for Local Replacement to Lincoln Hills

Big changes could be coming to the state's juvenile justice system.

That is, if Milwaukee County gets its way.

Under the direction of Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, county officials have started talking with Governor Scott Walker's staff about juvenile justice reform.

During Wednesday's Health and Human Needs Committee Meeting, Milwaukee County Supervisors reviewed a letter sent to the governor's office on December 1.

Milwaukee County Health & Human Services is asking the state to help fund a new, smaller facility so the county can pull some youth offenders out of Lincoln Hills School.

Hector Colon, the director of Milwaukee County Health and Human Services, said the first question the governor's staff asked was about costs.

"The state has to reform the whole system in order for this to make sense. Again, knowing that it will require some upfront investments but long-term it's going to lead to the better outcomes: reduced recidivism, won't compromise public safety, and will save a lot of money in the process," Colon said.

The governor's staff seems to talking about a new 36 bed facility operated by Milwaukee county, Colon said.

The proposed facility would be for non-serious juvenile offenders.

But Colon is making even more recommendations including eliminating of use of pepper spray at juvenile facilities, separating children by age within facility, and considering shorter detention based on completion of treatment goals.

Some advocate - who said they would like to be more involved with the proposal - are still cautious.

"There's some things in here that sound great. You know, it sounds really good. But at the end of the day we kept going back to 'facility'," Sharlen Moore, director of Urban Underground, said.

"Just because we build it here does not mean that we're not going to have the same issues that we're seeing across the state," Jeffrey Roman with Community Advocates added.

"So if we're not going to address that, and I've heard that we're looking at ways to do that, if we're not going to be intentional about doing that, we're not going to solve any problem that we have," Roman said.

County Executive staff answered by saying that change will have to come incrementally and they are working toward the same goal.

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