The Sentencing Project has just published a new edition of Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System, a manual for policymakers that describes numerous best practices for addressing disparities. This publication should be of particular interest in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, which have some of the worst criminal justice disparities in the nation. As The Sentencing Project described in a May publication, blacks in Milwaukee are seven times more likely than whites to be arrested for a drug offense, the second-highest such disparity among the forty-three major American cities analyzed. Similarly, a state-level analysis by Human Rights Watch determined that blacks in Wisconsin are forty-two times more likely than whites to receive a prison term for a drug conviction, the highest such disparity among the thirty-four states studied.
Of course, to say that there are racial disparities is not to say the disparities are necessarily unwarranted. For instance, if it turned out that blacks committed serious drug crimes more frequently than whites, then at least some of statistical disparities might be warranted. Still, the magnitude of the racial disparities in Milwaukee and Wisconsin is so high, particularly in comparison to national norms, that there is good reason to believe we do indeed have a serious problem.
Yesterday’s On the Issues with Mike Gousha featured a conversation with Marquette Law School graduate and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Maxine Aldridge White. Judge White’s journey from growing up in the Mississippi Delta as the daughter of a sharecropper to her current position on the bench is a compelling and inspiring one. Judge White reflected on her time at the Law School and how her experience here helped shape and influence her career. In particular, she pointed to the support and guidance provided her by Professor Phoebe Williams. Continue reading “Judge White Visits Her Alma Mater”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker laid out their visions for the future of mass transportation in Milwaukee at today’s On the Issues with Mike Gousha program at the Law School. (A podcast is here.) The transportation issue invites vision statements in part because $91.5 million in federal funds are set aside for mass transit in Milwaukee and in part because Milwaukee’s once prized transit system is badly broken. Without an agreement between Barrett and Walker, the federal funds are unlikely to be released. But an agreement between those leaders will be hard to come by: the mayor looks to cities that are growing and thriving and sees rail service as a key component of the local transportation strategy; the county exec looks at Milwaukee’s deteriorating bus system and wants those federal funds to shore up and improve county bus transportation.
Where Barrett sees local rail service as a critical economic development tool that can invigorate the region, Walker sees inflexible routes and minimal practical benefit. Where Walker sees improved bus service as a reliable system for moving workers and students, Barrett sees a county bus system that is in a “death spiral” which cannot be fixed just with more buses. Continue reading “Mayor Barrett and County Exec Walker on the Future of Mass Transit in Milwaukee”