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Wisconsin seeks funds restored for juvenile justice programs

MADISON (AP) -- Wisconsin officials are seeking the restoration of federal grants they haven't been able to tap into for the past two years to fund juvenile justice programs.

Federal justice officials froze more than $2.1 million in unspent federal grants dating back to 2011 during their most recent audit, which concluded Wisconsin didn't have an adequate system for monitoring facilities where juveniles are held, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Wisconsin Deputy Attorney General Paul Connell sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice in December requesting that frozen grant funds from 2011 to 2015 be restored.

The state is still waiting for an answer.

Federal officials informed state officials in 2014 that they would conduct an audit looking into whether the Wisconsin Department of Justice was complying with requirements to receive federal funds under a Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act program. A 2015 audit concluded Wisconsin's oversight of facilities such as jails, juvenile detention centers, mental health centers and police departments was lacking.

Federal compliance rules included defining which facilities should be inspected and monitored.

"Specifically with respect to detention facilities at police departments (lock ups), Wisconsin did not believe those type facilities were required to be included in the monitoring universe, and as such did not inspect them as required," the audit said.

Jim Moeser, deputy director with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families and chair of the Governor's Juvenile Justice Commission, said the state has been addressing federal compliance issues since officials were notified of the audit.

"Was there some responsibility on the part of the state that we probably didn't monitor things as adequately as we should? Yes," Moeser said. "But, is it as bad as suggesting that we're way out of compliance or not doing good work? I wouldn't say that."

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