Home Our Work Our Publications Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | WI

Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | WI

Wisconsin: 2009 | 2010 | 2011 



  • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — Rock County Uses Assessment Tool to Reduce Confinement of Youth of Color: In September 2010, Rock County, Wisconsin finalized a policy incorporating use of the Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (YASI) for every youth entering the juvenile justice system. Through the use of the YASI and other reforms adopted during the county’s participation in the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change DMC Action Network, such as implementation of graduated responses to probation, placements of youth in state correctional facilities have dropped 88 percent since 2007, and detention of youth of color for probation violations has declined. The YASI helps build upon youths’ strengths and better match their needs with evidence-based resources.

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  • Screening and Assessment — Lawmakers Improve Data Sharing in Order to Increase Effective Detention Screening: A new Wisconsin law allows detention intake workers access to prior adjudication histories in order to make more appropriate detention decisions. In 2008, Wisconsin counties faced a significant hurdle when attempting to introduce detention screening instruments, a best practice to ensure equitable decision-making about whether youth should be detained. Because of juvenile confidentiality laws, county officials could not access data on prior court adjudications or court involvement related to child welfare or delinquency issues. This information can be an important element in screening youth for placement in detention and elsewhere because it enhances the safety of the youth and the community. S.B. 375/Act 2009-338, signed into law and effective May 13, 2010.
  • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Outagamie County Develops Strategies to Reduce School-Based Arrests: Working with the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, Outagamie County officials introduced two reforms aimed at reducing disorderly conduct arrests in the county’s public schools. The first involved collaborating with the Appleton Area School District in the implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS. PBIS equips school officials with a broad range of techniques to manage conflict on school grounds. The second—the Police-School Resource Program—aims to prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system by linking them with services and supports that address disruptive behavior. The county also contracted for a full-time counselor who connects youth with those services—including social skills training, anger management, family counseling, on-site behavior support and intervention, and other wraparound services—without formally involving youth in the justice system. In the year after implementing those programs, disorderly conduct arrests fell almost 20 percent.
  • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Counties Develop Training for School Resource Officers: Wisconsin’s Rock, Kenosha, and Outagamie Counties worked with Fox Valley Technical College to create a curriculum for School Resource Officers (SROs). The curriculum—developed through the counties’ work with the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative—aims to train SROs in alternatives to school-based arrest, and includes information on adolescent brain development, de-escalation techniques, over-criminalization of common youth behavior, the effects of an arrest in school, Motivational Interviewing, and other relevant topics. Training began in August 2010.

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  • Facility Closures and Downsizing — State Shutters Two Juvenile Facilities: As of July 1, 2011, Wisconsin closed both the Ethan Allen School for Boys and Southern Oaks Girls School; approximately 40 youth were returned home and approximately 150 youth were transferred to Lincoln Hills School for Boys and a newly created Copper Lake School for Girls (on the grounds of Lincoln Hills). At the time of consolidation, fewer than 300 youth total were placed in juvenile corrections, marking a 70 percent decline in the average daily population from 2001 to 2011. The closure of the Ethan Allen facility stemmed in part from the recommendations of a governor-appointed committee, which in June 2010 affirmed its support for closing one of the facilities as a first step toward ongoing system change that would promote more effective community-based alternatives. The girls’ facility was closed due to a declining population. The programs at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools have been reoriented to focus more on evidence-based practices, education, and reentry. Several local/regional secure detention centers in Wisconsin are considering the development of short-term alternatives to correctional placement that would keep youth nearer to their home communities and provide opportunities to more fully engage families.
  • Facility Closures and Downsizing — State Reduces Number of Detained Youth: The number of youth placed in short-term detention in Wisconsin declined 35 percent between 2006 and 2011, in part due to reduced use of the valid court order exception to hold youth who commit status offenses. The decline is due to overall system changes, including the creation of alternative services and training on evidence-based practices. Since mid-2011, over thirty county departments of human services—all of which provide delinquency-related services—have participated in initial trainings on implementing evidence-based practices at the local level, and work has begun on a curriculum to support improved practice for juvenile justice social workers and providers.

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Photo: beautifulcataya, under Creative Commons License.