Time and again

I just finished reading a pamphlet about the difficulties faced by people on probation or parole who are re-incarcerated without committing any new offense. This is a serious problem in Wisconsin. There are thousands of people behind bars who don’t belong there.  Wisconsin is known for many negative statistics concerning African American men and these are especially glaring when it comes to criminal justice. Black men are over represented in the prison system as inmates both for people who committed crime and for those who whose probation was revoked.

We are the poster child for the problem of mass incarceration. Instead of seeking alternatives to incarceration we have a system which rewards probation and parole officers who use technical violations as excuses to send people back to prison. We have people who went back to school and began earning college credits winding up in prison. We have a system which does not offer due process, and offers incentives for people to make false accusations to send their former friends or spouses back to prison. There are bout 3,000 people sent to our state prisons every year because of “revocations” and I would bet that the vast majority are black or brown. We also have the problem of Truth of In Sentencing a horrendous law that was passed several years ago in fit of “tough on crime” which ended ended probation and parole for new people who are being convicted of crimes.  Truth in Sentencing is applied to  11 crimes that apply to the majority of prison inmates. When you examine charts you find a tremendous increase in the number of inmates Wisconsin due almost entirely to truth in sentencing. which increases the length of prison sentences.

These issues need to be discussed to look at the cost to society, the failure to reward people who are truly attempting to turn their lives around and the stress that it puts on people who are caught up in the system and whose technical violations could be resolved in alternative means.

I recommend becoming involved in groups like WISDOM a statewide network with EXPO an organization of former prisoners who have direct experience. You can call 414-831-2070 to find out how you can help.

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