Bohren decided to keep the girls in adult court because he was worried the girls would not receive proper mental health treatment or supervision upon their release, according to reports. A longer sentence would “protect people longer,” he said.
There's a tradeoff, though: Adult prisons aren't designed with kids in mind.
In Wisconsin, youth in juvenile facilities have access to a wide array of resources and workshops. The Division of Juvenile Corrections of Wisconsin has offerings including dialectical behavior therapy, which helps juveniles learn mindfulness, distress tolerance and emotion regulation; education; family services, including bus services for families and therapy; a foster grandparent program as mentorship; a juvenile cognitive intervention program, focusing on cognitive restructuring in adolescents; and a victim impact program, which emphasizes the rights of victims and identifies the harmful effects of crime.
Adult facilities offer some overlapping resources, but are targeted at older populations. Most offerings are for technical education training. Treatment offerings are for things like anger management and cognitive intervention, but many of the violence programs cater only to men. Additionally, not all programs are available in all of the state’s 38 facilities. By contrast, there are two formal holding facilities in the state for juveniles, one for boys and another for girls, plus an alternative academy for boys. Almost all juvenile programs are offered at both the boys’ and girls’ facilities.
Holding youth in adult facilities isn’t a new practice, but it recently has been gaining more national attention.
Last month, HuffPost’s Dana Liebelson reported about the lives of youth in the adult prison system, some of whom had experienced abuse and almost all of whom had contemplated suicide. Staff in juvenile facilities are “more likely to be trained to deal with teens,” she wrote, and minors in adult prisons are more likely to attempt suicide than their counterparts in juvenile detention. And after they are released, those who serve in the adult system are “77 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent felony than those who were sent to juvenile institutions.”
Youth are also five times more likely to experience sexual assault in adult prisons versus juvenile facilities, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.