Statement: Milwaukee DSA and coalition partners denounce Gov. Evers’ new prison plans

Contact information:

Emily Hall

Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America

(414) 540-8884‬

Ryeshia Farmer
African-American Roundtable
(414) 253-3366

On February 3, 2023, Gov. Tony Evers announced building projects across the state approved by the State Building Commission. His announcement highlighted approval for the new Type 1 youth prison in Milwaukee as though expanding the footprint of youth incarceration in Wisconsin is an achievement to be proud of. Many community members in Milwaukee and around the state reject the decision to build this new prison.

Organizers demanding that Evers empty Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake without building a new prison denounce this decision by the building commission, and the governor’s tactless celebration of expanding youth incarceration.

“Incarcerating youth is always harmful and is not the way to advance public safety. For the governor, a former educator, to pursue this project, rather than the better, faster way of closing Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake we have outlined is unimaginative and disappointing.” -Emily Hall, a member of Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America (MKE DSA).

“People living near the Clinton Avenue site do not want this prison built in their community. I attended multiple input sessions, and every time, residents had the same experience of feeling choiceless and unheard. I could not believe the gaslighting, other mind games, and lack of accountability I witnessed.” – Ryeshia Farmer, Community Program Manager with African American Roundtable (AART).

Coalition partners including AART, Milwaukee DSA, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC), Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT), American Federation of Teachers Local 3535, and Wisconsin Federation of Nurses Local 5000 are demanding that Evers use his executive authority to protect Wisconsin youth from incarceration rather than spending more than $1 million per child to build a new youth prison.

The partner organizations are also circulating a petition and

fact sheet supporting these demands, and articles describing the undemocratic process state agencies used to gain approval for the Clinton Avenue site.

Many people who support the prison construction do so under the false ideas that building a replacement Type 1 facility is the only way to 1) protect youth from abuses uncovered at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, and 2) allow youth charged with serious juvenile offenses access to their families, communities, and culturally relevant programming

This is not true. The governor can instead use his executive powers to declare a moratorium on the “serious juvenile offender program” — a sentencing structure inspired by the racist “superpredator” myth popular in the 1990s.

It’s unclear how the new facility would protect incarcerated youth from the kind of harm they experience at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, whether the facility is the most conducive way to untie young people with their communities and necessary services, or whether the new prison would actually enable closing those facilities, rather than simply expanding Wisconsin’s capacity to incarcerate children. Prisons isolate people from their communities no matter where they exist.

Take action:

Coalition partners:

African American Roundtable
American Federation of Teachers Local 3535
Black Leaders Organizing Communities (BLOC)
Black Men Build
Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT)
Madison Wisconsin Homeless Union
Metcalfe Park Community Bridges
Milwaukee Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression
Milwaukee Freedom Fund
Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America
Party for Socialism and Liberation- Milwaukee
Reproductive Justice Action Milwaukee
Wisconsin Federation of Nurses Local 5000

In solidarity,
Milwaukee DSA

Democratic Socialists of America
Milwaukee Chapter
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