Three articles in the Racine Journal Times within the last week highlighted problems at the Lincoln Hills youth prison in Irma, Wisconsin. In one incident inmates conspired to electrocute a guard. This resulted in no discipline to any inmate. In another incident a teacher required hospitalization after an assault by a much larger inmate. And in yet another incident a female teacher was injured and hospitalized after being punched by an inmate.

The Lincoln Hill guards have been ordered to reduce the use of pepper spray, restraints and solitary by a federal judge because of abuse claims and lawsuits by inmates represented by the ACLU and the Juvenile Law Center. One staff member who recently resigned speaking about the judge’s order said, “I am afraid of getting killed by an inmate.”

Meanwhile the Wisconsin Corrections Secretary, Jon Litscher, said Lincoln Hills, “is a safe place for staff and offenders and we will continue to do the best in programming that will allow these young people to come back to their communities in a respectful and responsible manner.”

Safe? Respectful? Responsible? Those really do not sound like words that should be used by anyone regarding issues at Lincoln Hills. They sound like the words of a bureaucrat trying to defend an out of control situation, a situation made worse by another bureaucrat, the judge, who has probably never been to Lincoln Hills and has no idea how violent these “children” can be.

It is age and age only that determines whether an offender is tried as an adult or a child. There is no consideration given to the crime committed or the damage done to the individuals hurt or killed during the alleged crime. In one Racine incident years ago a young boy named Terrance Simpson who had just turned 11 years old a month earlier shot and killed a man from the roof of the King Community Center. Because he was under 12 years old, he could not be charged with any crime in Wisconsin. As such he was sent to live in group homes from which he walked away. Ultimately at age 16 he was convicted of setting fire to his bed linens at the Racine County Juvenile Detention Center and sentenced to 7 years in prison.

In another case, 13 year old Racine resident, Marquain Shannon was found guilty of the shooting death of 14 year old Dana Giese for flashing rival gang symbols. Shannon being under the age of 14 could not be tried as an adult. As such he could not be incarcerated beyond his 25th birthday. For those people feeling sorry for Shannon (boo hoo – after all he is only a young boy) he had 68 previous contacts with police beginning from the time he was 7. At 13 he was already a seasoned, career criminal.

I do not feel sorry for the boys at Lincoln Hills. I do not feel sorry for Terrance Simpson or for Marquain Shannon. They are exactly where they belong, locked away from the people they could hurt. I feel sorry for their victims.

I do not believe in rehabilitation. I believe in restitution. I think once a person is convicted and locked away they should be made to work off their crimes while incarcerated. I know it is practically impossible to put a monetary value on a persons life in the case of murder but somehow, someway, these criminals must be made to pay for their crimes other than by sitting around a prison yard with other reprobates working out on weight machines getting themselves stronger and meaner for the time they eventually get released.

Instead of prisons, they should be out in the community digging ditches and doing other back breaking menial jobs getting a stipend which will go to their victims until their obligation is fully paid. They do not owe a debt to society. They owe a debt to the individual victims of their violence and fraud.

 

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