Petition: No Juvenile Detention Center

We, the undersigned, are opposed to the building of a juvenile detention center. We want to invest in a safe and healthy environment for all children and divest in Winona’s carceral system. We refuse to invest in a future of harm toward children. We demand that funds planned to be used for the juvenile detention center be reallocated to preventative programs outside of the carceral system. 

Winona County Commissioners will soon be hearing a proposal for a $3.9 million juvenile detention center. However, for the last 20 years, there has been a shift, both nationally and in the state of Minnesota, towards a more restorative approach within the juvenile justice system. Mounting evidence has shown the deleterious consequences of detaining youth, including long-term negative effects that continue into adulthood. Olmsted County closed their Juvenile Detention Center in 2020, choosing a restorative rather than punitive approach. Winona is one-third of the population of Olmsted County; we demand that the same restorative approach is made in Winona County, since it has proven long-term results. 

In June 2020, Winona became the second city in the state of Minnesota to remove police in schools, a decision to fight the school-to-prison pipeline. During the 2017-2018 school year, black students made up 5.88% of the district’s population but received 30.34% of all disciplinary actions. As of the 2018-2019 school year, Black students made up 6.41% of the population and 27.47% of all disciplinary actions. Investing in a juvenile detention center would uphold the racist and classist school-to-prison pipeline. Winona should be working on conditions that keep children from contact with the juvenile justice system, just as it has done by removing police from schools. 

Arrest and subsequent consequences have long-term negative implications; arrest as a juvenile triples the odds of being arrested as an adult. Involvement in the juvenile justice system also reduces the likelihood of high school graduation as well as increases the likelihood of drug use as an adult. Juvenile detentions disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. As stated in the 2018 Juvenile Justice Report Summary: “Black youth are four times more likely than white youth to be arrested and twice as likely to be placed in a secure (locked) detention. American Indian youth are three times more likely than white youth to be arrested and five times more likely to be placed in secure detention. Hispanic youth are twice as likely as white youth to be arrested. Asian youth are twice as likely as white youth to be placed in secure detention.” Additionally, LGBTQ Youth of Color in the juvenile justice system experience “elevated risk of discrimination and violence once system-involved compared to other groups of youth.” It is also reported that between 65 percent and 70 percent of the 2 million children and adolescents arrested each year in the United States have a mental health disorder, which would be exacerbated by juvenile detention. 

Children belong with their families, not incarcerated.  We do not support the building of a juvenile detention facility in our community.  The $3.9 million that is being proposed for this facility would better serve our community by investing it in children’s mental health services, non-police-related crisis intervention services for families, and support for parents.

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