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Wisconsin passes law increasing police access to juvenile records

In an effort to curb crime in Wisconsin, lawmakers have signed into law a series of bills that some feel are overreaching. One of the bills gives law enforcement, including officers, judges and prosecutors, greater access to the criminal records of juveniles. This increased access would allow law enforcement officials to track a juvenile's record and group those young individuals charged with minor offenses with juveniles who have been charged with more serious crimes.

The bill was drafted based on anecdotal evidence claiming that juveniles whose records aren't closely tracked are prone to commit more crimes and receive a lower level of punishment. The senator who contributed to authoring the bill said, "If the law enforcement as a group doesn't have their records, then these minors become hardened criminals because they're going to get away with it and nobody's going to find out their total record. So they're coddled and they can get away with murder."

Others disagree, pointing out that the approach is counterintuitive. Grouping juveniles who have been charged with low-level offenses together with those charged with more violent offenses could simply add to the problem. It would ensure that more kids are placed in juvenile residences and detention facilities, relegating those kids to a system wherein they quickly go from probation to a lock-up environment.

Most people would probably agree that measures improving the ability of police to protect and serve the community are positive. But when these measures infringe upon the civil liberties of individuals, has law enforcement gone too far?

Source: The Examiner, "Scott Walker and WI lawmakers trample civil liberties to get tough on crime," Michael Priebe, April 10, 2012

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