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Corrections: 16, 17 year olds should go to juvenile lockup

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin corrections officials want minors convicted in adult court to begin their sentences in a juvenile facility.

In its state budget request, the Department of Corrections has asked legislators to change the law that currently sends 16- and 17-year-old criminals to adult prisons.

Those under 16 who are sentenced to prison in the adult system serve their time at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls in Lincoln County. The campus near Wausau has been under scrutiny recently following reports of sexual assault, physical abuse and neglect.

The agency has asked for money to improve security staffing and nurses at the juvenile centers.

Minors convicted as adults belong in a juvenile setting, said Michael Caldwell, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert on juvenile delinquency.

“Younger kids are hard to manage in an adult setting; there’s plenty of research to support that,” Caldwell told Gannett Wisconsin Media.

There are beds available in the juvenile centers for teens convicted as adults, Caldwell said.

Republican Sen. Jerry Petrowski has worked on legislation in the past aimed at young offenders.

“I think it’s a positive,” Petrowski said. “I think this gives flexibility to Corrections in the placement of 16 and 17-year-olds. He expects the corrections request to survive the budget process.

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