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Facing racism in Wisconsin's criminal justice system

America has suffered racial divides at nearly every level of society for hundreds of years. From education to jobs to the right to vote, equality has been difficult to achieve for a nation that prides itself on Democracy and fairness. Perhaps that most glaring problems have occurred in the criminal justice system, where African-Americans are consistently handed down harsher sentences than their white counterparts for the same offenses.

A New York Times editorial explored the extreme racial bias found in the Florida courts. Data showed that in some counties, African Americans received an average of 178 more days in prison than whites for the same crimes. And in cases of robbery, their sentences nearly tripled those of white defendants.

In an effort to produce equal justice, the state implemented strict sentencing guidelines. Unfortunately, many judges simply ignored the new policies and continued to practice biased sentencing in their courtrooms. But this issue isn’t just a problem in a few states, it’s a national problem and Wisconsin has been cited among states that incarcerate African Americans at a much higher rate than whites.  Data published by the Sentencing Project shows:

  • A 5-1 incarceration disparity exists between African Americans and whites nationally.
  • Five states — including Wisconsin — have a 10-1 imprisonment difference between the races.
  • 1 in 20 black males are in prison in 11 states, including Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin has the second-highest African-American incarceration rate for every 100,000 African-Americans at 2,625.
  • Wisconsin has the second-highest incarceration disparity between African Americans and whites.
  • African Americans make up 42.7 percent of Wisconsin’s prison population.

During the last 10 years, many states began making greater policy efforts toward rehabilitation. The State of Wisconsin went in the opposite direction and increased its funding for both public and private prisons. According to PBS News Hour, the state invests more money into its correctional institutions than it does into higher education.   

Defense attorneys are facing an uphill battle in terms of equal justice for all clients. If you have been charged with a crime in Wisconsin, it’s important that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney with you every step of the way.  

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