Below are a series of frequently asked questions regarding the governor's budget proposals for supporting youth

Because the governor’s budget includes wide-ranging youth justice reforms, specific provisions can be found in the Department of Children and Families, Department of Corrections, and Circuit Courts budgets. These FAQs address items found in all three. This section will be updated periodically as new information becomes available.

Community-Based Youth Justice System Investments

Why is funding for youth justice training needed?

Unlike child welfare training, there is no foundational training for Youth Justice. This proposal will enable the critical development of a foundation of quality practice throughout the state.

How will the community-based grants to counties be awarded, and what will they cover?

Grants will be awarded through an application process to several counties or consortia of counties. DCF recognizes that the specific needs can vary greatly across the state and will work with counties to determine what specific resources are needed to fill local service gaps and advance quality practice.

How will the grants to providers work?

The targeted population for the residential care center grant would be moderate and high risk delinquent male youth with aggressive behaviors and/or sexual offenses; providers would not be required to accept all placements, but the expectation is that they would accept placements of these youth who would often otherwise be declined.

The targeted population for the child placing agency (treatment foster care) grant would be medium or high risk delinquent youth who require out-of-home care placement but are particularly unsuited for a congregate care setting, including female youth, including those who have experienced sex trafficking, along with male delinquent youth who are highly vulnerable or otherwise not appropriate for placement in congregate care settings.

DCF will collaborate with providers to identify the specific options for funding support that would allow them to serve this population. The grants are intended to provide start-up, supplemental or incentive funding; the base costs of placements will continue to be paid through the rate-regulated rates.

Juvenile and Adult Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings

When does elimination of the Serious Juvenile Offender program take effect?

 As drafted, the SJO disposition would no longer be an option as of the effective date of the new biennial budget (July 1, 2021, or the date after publication).

Aren’t Serious Juvenile Offenders different from the other, less-serious offenders? Don’t they need different services or more secure placements?

While there is a wide array of risk levels and treatment needs among youth adjudicated delinquent, the SJO disposition does not effectively make those distinctions. Among youth adjudicated delinquent with a correctional disposition (SJO or non-SJO), there is no clear pattern in their treatment needs or their behavior while in correctional placement. Some youth do require secure confinement for a period of time; the elimination of the SJO designation does not remove that option for those youth.

What options will counties have for youth who would have been adjudicated as Serious Juvenile Offenders?

Youth who would have been eligible for the SJO disposition remain eligible for a juvenile correctional disposition, including commitment to a state-run secure correctional facility (either Copper Lake School or Lincoln Hills School, in the short term, or eventually the new state- or county-run Secured Residential Care Centers for Children and Youth (SRCCCYs), along with Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center). Counties are not expected to have the full array of services locally to meet the needs of these youth.

Some youth who would have been eligible for the SJO disposition will be eligible for the new Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction option, which provides an additional avenue for longer confinement and supervision in those cases in which the youth’s responsiveness to treatment and subsequent community risk may not be known at the time of disposition.

How many states still consider 17-year-olds to be adults for purposes of criminal prosecution?

Wisconsin is now one of only three states that considers 17-year-olds adults for purposes of criminal prosecution.

When does the return of 17-year-olds to the youth justice system take effect?

If passed, the change would take effect for youth alleged delinquent on or after the effective date of the new biennial budget (July 1, 2021, or the date after publication).

What options will counties have for the 17-year-olds who will be returning to the youth justice system?

Counties will have the same dispositional options as they do for other youth adjudicated delinquent, up to and including placement in a DOC-operated secure facility. Waiver to adult court also remains an option, along with the new Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction, for those alleged to have committed felony-level offenses.

When does the increase in the minimum age of delinquency from 10 to 12 take effect?

If passed, the change would take effect for youth alleged delinquent on or after the effective date of the new biennial budget (July 1, 2021, or the date after publication).

What will happen to 10 or 11 year old children who commit delinquent acts once the minimum age of delinquency is raised to 12?

Jurisdiction would remain with the juvenile court under the Juvenile in Need of Protection or Service (JIPS) statute, as it does now for children under the age of 10 who commit delinquent acts.

A similar array of dispositional options and services are available; however, children adjudicated as JIPS may not be placed in detention or correctional settings as a sanction or disposition.

With waivers are restricted and automatic adult court jurisdiction eliminated, which youth could still be waived to adult court?

Youth ages 14 and up who are alleged to have committed specified serious offenses, along with youth ages 16 and up alleged to have committed any felony-level offense.

How will the Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction (EJJ) option work?

The EJJ model allows the youth to receive a juvenile correctional disposition, to be served in either a state or county-run secure facility, along with a mechanism for transition to the adult correctional system if the court determines it to be needed when the juvenile is 18.

Under the current system, we need to guess what a youth who commits a serious offense at 14 might be like at 18 or 20. Anyone who has worked with adolescents knows that we don’t know whether a youth will respond to services or whether incarceration will be needed past 18 when we see a youth at 14. The Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction model gives a moment of inflection between the 18th and 19th birthday to see if a youth needs to continue to be incarcerated.

The model also has specific requirements related to eligibility, procedure, court findings, and due process to protect against it being an avenue for moving young people who don’t need adult correctional supervision into the adult system.

Who is responsible for youth with EJJ dispositions?

The juvenile disposition for an EJJ youth functions in the same manner as a juvenile correctional disposition for a non-EJJ youth – the youth will be placed in a secure facility, either a state-run juvenile correctional facility or SRCCCY or a county-run SRCCCY (if the county-run facility accepts placement). If the youth is released to aftercare while still a juvenile, the county provides aftercare, as they do for other youth placed in SRCCCYs.

If the adult portion of the EJJ disposition is imposed (between the youth’s 18th and 19th birthday), responsibility transfers to the Department of Corrections for both confinement (if ordered) and community supervision.

Won’t the EJJ option push more youth into the adult system?

The age and offense criteria for EJJ are the same as for waiver to adult court, which positions EJJ as an alternative to simply waiving a youth to adult court. Additional protections include specific required court findings and procedures, both to determine eligibility for EJJ and, later, to impose the adult portion of the disposition, along with due process projections for the youth including right to a jury trial.

When do the new EJJ provisions take effect?

If passed, the EJJ provisions have a delayed effective date of July 1, 2022, to allow time for DOC rule-making.

Secure Confinement

What does the bill do about closing Copper Lake/Lincoln Hills Schools?

The bill eliminates the Type 1 juvenile correctional facility designation and authorizes the DOC to operate secured residential care centers for children and youth (SRCCCYs). Counties also remain authorized to operate SRCCCYs. This establishes a single tier secure confinement treatment model to provide youth with research-supported treatment and comprehensive aftercare support.

The bill proposes to remove the July 1, 2021, effective date (in 2017 Act 185 as amended by 2019 Act 8) and instead provides that youth shall be transferred from LHS/CLS as soon as a replacement facility that meets the needs of each juvenile is ready, and LHS/CLS will be closed when all youth have been transferred.

Don’t we need Type 1 facilities for the most serious offenders? Don’t they need to be more secure than SRCCCYs?

Act 185 was structured to place SJOs at Type 1 facilities and non-SJO correctional placements at SRCCCYs, but this distinction is not borne out in research or practice. Some youth do require confinement in a secure facility for a period of time, and SRCCCYs will be appropriate to meet that need. Modern facility design allows for facilities that are both highly secure and treatment-oriented, and in fact, initial design work for both the state-run facility and county SRCCCYs demonstrate a high degree of similarity.

If a county runs an SRCCCY, will it be forced to accept placements?

Under the bill, when the court makes a juvenile correctional disposition under 938.34(4m), it can either order placement with DOC or order that the youth be placed under the supervision of the county department for placement in an SRCCCY. If the county department, the county is responsible for identifying the specific SRCCCY, and in doing so will need the agreement of the county that operates the SRCCCY.

Does DOC have to accept placement?

Placement with DOC under 938.34(4m) is ordered directly by the court. In a change of placement proceeding under 938.357(3), DOC has the ability to object to the transfer but cannot refuse it.

How can youth be placed at Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC)?

Placement at MJTC can occur two ways: via transfer from a DOC facility (as is the case now), or by change of placement under 938.357(3) from an SRCCCY. The Department of Health Services must agree to the transfer.

When does the elimination of long-term post-dispositional detention placement take effect?

Implementation of this provision as proposed in the bill is delayed and tied to the eventual closure of CLS/LHS after alternative facilities (SRCCCYs) are available. CLS/LHS will close once no youth remain in those facilities. Dispositions to long-term detention remain available for one year after the CLS/LHS closure date, at which point new detention dispositions revert back to the limit of 30-days.

Why is long-term detention placement being eliminated as a disposition?

The eventual elimination of detention for long-term post-dispositional placements (i.e. 180/360 programs) is consistent with the movement to a unified model of post-dispositional secure confinement (SRCCCYs). Long-term post-dispositional placements in detention are subject to very limited standards or regulation, most were not designed for programming or lengthy stays, and detention facilities are inherently not trauma-informed settings and have little outdoor or excess indoor space.

Doesn’t the elimination of long-term post-dispositional detention placement take away options from counties?

Detention was never designed to be a long-term placement for youth. By gradually eliminating it, it allows both the counties and the state to develop alternatives, including construction of new state-run SRCCCYs, expansion of the DHS-operated Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center, construction or conversion of county-run facilities to SRCCCYs, and development of more robust non-secure placement alternatives through the community-based grant investments.

Why is the use of detention for status offenders being limited?

Under current Wisconsin law, youth who have committed status offenses (e.g. running away, truancy) may be placed in detention for a violation of a valid court order. This practice is contrary to a wide body of research and best practice, and it has already been banned in two-thirds of states. It is also allowed by federal law only for a limited period and with specific documentation requirements, and Wisconsin is currently not compliant with either.

Doesn’t limiting detention sanctions and holds fail to hold youth accountable for violating rules?

Although the juvenile justice system has historically relied on this sort of punitive approach, we know now that confinement is not an effective means of promoting accountability or behavioral change.

Detention centers are being used less during COVID and many reported limiting use for non-public safety reasons during this time. The change in practice present a unique window of opportunity to move this issue forward.


What will be the financial impact on counties of the elimination of the Serious Juvenile Offender Program?

Funding that would have been budgeted to directly cover the costs of SJO youth will instead be allocated to the counties, through Youth Aids, to offset the costs of secure placements. Although the specific impact on any individual county cannot be projected, this is a more equitable distribution of funding in that it is not dependent on either certain committing offenses or on a court’s decision on whether to use the SJO disposition versus a non-SJO correctional disposition.

How will the return of 17-year-olds to the youth justice system impact counties financially?

The bill includes $10 million each year in a new Youth Aids appropriation to reimburse counties for the cost associated with this change. The appropriation is sum-sufficient, which means that additional funding will be added if the originally budget amount is not sufficient.

How will the $10 million for returning 17-year-olds to the youth justice system be allocated? Does it use the same formulas as Youth Aids?

DCF will work with counties to determine the most effective method for identifying costs and calculating funding amounts. This funding and allocation process is separate from the rest of the Youth Aids funding.

How were the Youth Aids changes developed?

Non-statutory language in 2019 Wisconsin Act 9 directed the department to discuss with counties the formulas used to allocate Youth Aids. DCF convened a workgroup with counties. Based on that work, WCHSA subsequently endorsed a set of statutory changes to consolidate and simplify specific Youth Aids components while retaining the base allocation methods along with funding for emergency funds and innovative practice.

How will the Youth Aids changes affect counties’ Youth Aids allocations?

Overall, counties will see an increase in the base amount of Youth Aids awarded (without a separate application process or restrictive use requirements). Funding remains available in the restructured/renamed Youth Justice Systems Improvements Program appropriation for emergency funds as well as innovation grants (or similar). Individual counties’ Youth Aids allocations change each year based on applying updated data to the formulas in statute, most of which are not changing, and cannot be projected at this time.

Who pays for youth with EJJ dispositions?

While the juvenile is under the juvenile portion of an EJJ disposition, the county pays the cost (via a daily rate paid to the state or other provider, or via its own costs for supervision). The funding added to Youth Aids as a result of the SJO elimination will offset a portion of these costs (as it does for both EJJ and non-EJJ secure placements, regardless of whether the youth “would have been” an SJO).

If the adult portion of the EJJ disposition is imposed (between the youth’s 18th and 19th birthday), the state Department of Corrections assumes financial responsibility.

How will placements at Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center be paid for?

DHS will set the daily rate for Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center. If a youth is placed there by the county, DHS will bill the county. If a (non-SJO) youth is transferred there by DOC, DHS will bill DOC and DOC will bill the county that same amount.