Editor Kurt Chandler’s monthly letter to our readers.
Milwaukee County’s Juvenile Justice Center houses the courtrooms and the jail for kids accused of screwing up. Located on Watertown Plank Road in Wauwatosa, the center is bordered by a freeway cloverleaf, the Crowne Plaza hotel, and a steel-and-glass research park, separated from the justice center by a long, narrow pond, which I suppose could serve as a moat.
By all appearances, the Juvenile Justice Center is a suburban outpost. Because of its distance from the central city, the parents of many urban youth who are charged with or convicted of crimes are far removed from court hearings or jail visitations. In some cases, especially for family members who don’t drive, it can take an hour each way by bus to get to the juvenile center.
So why should we care about what seems like a transportation inconvenience?
As Erik Gunn reports in “Trial Separation,” the relatively remote location of the center serves to undermine the very mission of Children’s Court. In fact, many professionals within the justice system – including Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers and Judge Mary Triggiano, who presides over Children’s Court – now call for moving the court Downtown, where it once was located.
Relocating Children’s Court into the city would help unify the various elements within the overall justice system. Milwaukee police would have easier access to juvenile arrest records and child protection reports, for example. “But it also offers a chance to better engage families with the Children’s Court, at a time when the family’s role in getting kids out of trouble – or preventing entry into it – has become central to the court’s work,” writes Gunn.
In the long run, the move benefits the community. “Lawyers, judges, police and social workers who work in juvenile justice,” he writes, “argue that effectively helping the youngest lawbreakers and potential lawbreakers turn from crime toward lives of accomplishment is one of the keys to building prosperous and safe communities.”
Moving the court Downtown is an expensive and politically dicey proposition. And, until now, the idea has rarely been discussed in public, and only among a small group of insiders. Ironically, overshadowing the proposal, a debate has meanwhile roared over how to pay for a multimillion-dollar basketball arena – Downtown.
Unlike the superficial stories in some of metro Milwaukee’s lifestyle publications, it’s Gunn’s incisive report and Senior Editor Howie Magner’s vivid profiles of World War II veterans that brands Milwaukee Magazine. It’s this kind of journalism that occasionally wins praise and allows us bragging rights. Gunn’s piece last year about the raw milk controversy, for instance, won a gold award in May from the Milwaukee Press Club.
The accolade was one of 21 Press Club awards – eight of them gold – captured this year by Milwaukee Magazine, the most this publication has won in more than 15 years.
Gold also went to Senior Editor Matt Hrodey for a short feature on suburban bank robberies; Staff Photographer Adam Ryan Morris for his photo of a local comedian; Associate Editor Claire Hanan for a public service package on elder care; Art Director Kathryn Lavey, Senior Designer Krista Schmidt and Graphic Designer Rachel Stinebring for best overall magazine design; Lavey and Morris for best single cover design; Schmidt for best single feature design; and freelance writer Tom Matthews for his profile of John Lennon’s longtime record producer.
A full list of the awards can be found on milwaukeemag.com/awards. We’re proud of the honors.