MILWAUKEE -- Overcrowding and not enough staff. Those are problems facing Milwaukee County's Juvenile Detention Center. On Wednesday, May 18th, the county's health committee heard a report about plans to address those problems. Some supervisors were not impressed.
County health officials say the overcrowding at the Juvenile Detention Center is tied to the abuse allegations at Lincoln Hills School for Boys near Wausau. That correctional facility is now the subject of a federal investigation. It has led the county to sentence more juveniles to the detention center in Milwaukee County -- which has put a strain on that facility.
According to county data, the 120-bed facility in Milwaukee County reached capacity five times in January, two times in February, 18 times in March and eight more times in April.
"Increasing our staff levels has certainly been a priority because our census has increased as a result of the Lincoln Hills crisis," said Hector Colon, Health and Human Services director.
Colon says 12 full-time correction staff will have been hired by early June. He also recommends identifying offenders who can be treated outside the correctional system.
"A lot of these kids need robust behavioral therapy programs. They also need cognitive intervention, skill building," Colon said.
Long-term, the report suggests the creation of a local residential treatment facility for juveniles who qualify. Some supervisors say there should already be more progress on that.
"That's what I expected to see -- a plan -- and I haven't heard that yet," said Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan.
Officials say they need licensing from the state and the assurance judges and prosecutors would direct offenders toward residential treatment.
"We cannot develop plans if our partners are not going to utilize those programs," Colon said.
"We all get frustrated when government moves slowly," said Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander. "Sometimes that speed, or lack thereof, is because we need to make sure everything is safe, everything is by the book and on the up-and-up."
Some supervisors also say they oppose the idea of hiring an outside vendor to run that residential facility. They say any contractor would have a financial interest in keeping kids incarcerated as opposed to preventing crime.
County health officials say there would be quality oversight of any such facility -- adding they hope to have a more concrete set of recommendations by July.