State News

Part of an anti-crime bill package would tighten penalties for teen criminals

An eight-bill “victim prevention” package was considered Wednesday in the state Senate Judiciary and Public Safety committee that would tighten punishments for teen criminals.

Youth who commit crimes could face tougher penalties in Wisconsin due to two bills included in a package of anti-crime bills considered by a state Senate committee Wednesday.

The package, proposed by state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, and state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, comes in response to a fatal shooting of a Milwaukee city housing inspector last week by three teens who had previous run-ins with law enforcement.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the crime highlights the need for state, county and city officials to continue working on solutions to address repeat offenders, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The two bills targeting youth would create tougher penalties like an increased mandatory minimum sentence for repeat offenders of serious crimes, more penalties for carjacking—the crime that led to the Milwaukee housing inspector’s shooting—and require a recommendation from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections to revoke parole.

Vukmir, speaking before the Senate committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, explained the purpose of the “victim prevention” package is to target the increasing rate of violence in Wisconsin.

“There are violent repeat offenders that are terrorizing neighborhoods,” Vukmir said. “We are doing a poor job of separating those offenders who should be afforded opportunities for rehabilitation from those who do not belong on our streets.”

Under the proposed legislation, an increased rate of child and teen offenders could be sent to state youth prisons for longer sentences for a broader spectrum of crimes.

Two youth juvenile prisons, Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, are currently under federal investigation for alleged child neglect and prisoner abuse.

Wisconsin Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher told the Joint Finance Committee Tuesday that the state has improved conditions at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

The youth bills have bipartisan support from the Senate committee and support from the Milwaukee Police Association. The National Association of Social Workers, the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters oppose the legislation. 

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