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Wisconsin Incarceration Disparity

By on April 28, 2013

You have to ask yourself at some point, why are there more Black males behind bars than any other racial group.  Is it that black males simply commit more crimes than men in other racial groups?

A study released  a few days ago by researchers at UW-Milwaukee shows that Wisconsin, long  known to be among the worst in racial disparities in the criminal justice  system, is in fact the worst — by a long shot.

Using 2010 census data, the study shows that 12.8 percent of the state’s  African-American men are now behind bars in state prison or local jails, twice  the national average of 6.7 percent.

Wisconsin’s rate far exceeds the 9.7% incarceration rate for  African-American men in Oklahoma, which come in at No. 2 on the list. (It’s  interesting to note that at 2.1 %, Oklahoma also has the highest rate of  incarcerating white men.)

According to 2012 prison statistics, black non-Hispanic males were incarcerated at the rate of 4,347 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents of the same race and gender. White males were incarcerated at the rate of 678 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents. Hispanic males were incarcerated at the rate of 1,755 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents.

So what the hell is happening in Wisconsin? The report cites a number  of factors: the inability of black men convicted of crimes to obtain  driver’s licenses, to find work, and to avoid being re-arrested for probation  violations. And of course there’s the war on drugs, which disproportionately hit minority  communities:

“The incarceration levels in the 2003-2008 period are nearly four times those  seen in 1990 before drug law changes, truth-in-sentencing, mandatory sentences,  and three-strikes laws were broadly imposed. Even with a recent decline in  incarceration levels, in 2010 Wisconsin still showed the highest incarceration  rate for African-Americans in the U.S.,” per the University of Wisconsin report.

It also focuses heavily on Milwaukee County, where two-thirds of the incarcerated  men come from six poverty-stricken zip code neighborhoods.”The volume of black males of prime working age imprisoned has increased to  such an extent that over half of all African-American men from Milwaukee County  in their 30s and half of men in their early 40s have been or currently are in  adult DOC correctional institutions,” the report says.

But we should also wonder about what the report does not significantly credit. We know from media coverage there are hundreds of examples where law enforcement give the benefit of the doubt to some and not others based on race and gender. It’s also clear that statistically there seems to be a disturbing pattern where Black males, representing a smaller percentage of the population compared to white males, continue to make up the majority of prisoners. Where is the federal investigation on systemic breakdowns, inconsistencies, and even wrongful convictions?

Whether you reside in Wisconsin or not, this report highlights the disparities in our justice system and how it is embedded as a standards against a specific racial group.



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