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Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm on Evers' criminal justice reform proposal

Posted at 5:51 PM, Feb 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 18:51:21-05

Gov. Tony Evers is planning to propose sweeping criminal justice reform in his budget address Thursday night.

He hopes to delay the closing of Lincoln Hills and increase the age that juveniles can be charged as adults. Wisconsin is one of only six states that treat 17-year-olds as adults when it comes to criminal charges. Evers is pushing to join the vast majority by increasing that age to 18.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm believes the impact would be fairly minor.

"The 17-year-olds who committed less serious offenses could potentially stay in the juvenile system," said Chisholm.

Chisholm thinks the focus shouldn't be on a specific age rather their behavior.

"Even the current system, if a young person commits a really serious offense, they can be waived into the adult court," Chisholm said.

Evers sent TODAY'S TMJ4 a statement about his ambitious criminal justice reform efforts that would need approval by the state's republican-controlled legislature.

"I've said all along that criminal justice reform is an area where Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together," Evers said. "That starts with our juvenile justice system and making sure that our kids are safe and have a chance to be rehabilitated so they can get back into our communities and be successful."

A big part of Evers' means an indefinite delay in the closure of troubled Lincoln Hills in Irma, Wisconsin. Chisholm believes Evers plan to wait is warranted.

"It's going to take some more time to make sure that we not just build buildings, it's about building programs and getting the right kids in the right services," Chisholm said.

"More than anything, I was actually shocked," said Youth Justice Milwaukee Director Sharlen Moore.

Youth Justice Milwaukee connects youth impacted by the criminal justice system to the community. Moore sides with many Wisconsin republicans in calling for the immediate closure of Lincoln Hills.

"We know that from a lot of the stories that have come out of Lincoln Hills that it is a very abusive place and it needs to be closed immediately," she said.

Moore believes Milwaukee County should focus on programs and services for Milwaukee's troubled youth over facilities far from home.

"Milwaukee youth belong in Milwaukee, that's no doubt," she said.

Evers will officially propose his criminal justice reform plans in his budget address Thursday night.