How Wisconsin's Use of Incarceration Harms Individuals and Communities

November 23, 2021

Wisconsin’s use of incarceration to lock up a staggering share of its population of color inflicts serious harm on individuals and communities. New figures show that the racial disparities in Wisconsin’s incarceration rates far exceed disparities at the national level, which themselves are stark. The result is a system that deepens the divide between Whites and people of color, and uses public resources to do so.

Some drivers of the disparities in incarceration rates have their roots in historical and present-day racial discrimination in Wisconsin’s housing, health care system, schools, and job market. These disparities are further exacerbated by a criminal justice system that over-polices communities of color, differentially charges Black people for the same crimes as Whites, and then too often mandates harsher and longer sentencing.

The Wisconsin Budget Project highlights the enormous cost of Wisconsin's incarceration policies, both in human cost and in dollar terms. We show:

    · Wisconsin's imprisonment rate for Black residents far exceeds the national average

   · Wisconsin locks up a higher share of Black residents than any other state

    · Wisconsin has the second-highest Black/White incarceration differential of any state; and

    · Wisconsin's corrections costs have long been high compared to other states.

Read more: Four Charts that Show the Harm of Racial Disparities in Wisconsin's Prisons

The Wisconsin Budget Project is part of Kids Forward, which works to help every child, every family, and every community thrive.

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