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Keeping WI Young People Out Of Trouble

June 24, 2010

MADISON, Wis. - With a drop in the number young people incarcerated in Wisconsin's three juvenile correctional institutions, per-capita costs are up. To save money, the Juvenile Corrections Review Committee of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections is considering closing either the Ethan Allen School, Wales, or the Lincoln Hills School, Irma. The closure will depend on an order from Gov. Doyle.

Mary Joas is a teacher at Ethan Allen. She says the school has a vital mission in helping young people get their lives back on track, which can be a real challenge.

"We're working with the highest-risk youth in the state of Wisconsin, kids who have not had the opportunity to make consistent, positive behavioral choices in their lives."

Joas, who also is vice president of the State Professional Education and Information Council (SPEIC Council #1), says not enough people realize that institutions like Ethan Allen and Lincoln Hills have a mission of educating young people, no matter what their circumstances. It can take time to build trust with the students, but Joas points to many success stories - and one of the lowest rates of recidivism in the nation.

Caron Butler, Racine, who plays for the NBA Dallas Mavericks, publicly credits Ethan Allen with turning his life around.

Among male juveniles, Wisconsin's two-year recidivism rate is one of the lowest in the nation. According to Joas, there is no question that the key to turning around a troubled youth is learning. Institutions like Ethan Allen School are crucial to creating a safe environment in which incarcerated young people can learn, she says.

"Education is one of the most influential components in reducing recidivism."

Joas and her fellow educators are committed to providing positive outcomes for young people and giving service to the state that pays off in the long run, she adds.

More information is available from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, 608-276-7711 or www.weac.org.

Tim Morrissey/Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI