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Wisconsin is second worst state in the nation for racial disparities in the criminal system

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2016 | Firm News

Wisconsin court commissioners and judges who set bail and sentence people need to be reminded how terrible Wisconsin numbers are. African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1. Wisconsin has the second highest incarceration rates per 100,000 by race in the nation! .  Racial disparities in incarceration can arise from a variety of circumstances. These might include a high rate of black incarceration, a low rate of white incarceration.  In Wisconsin we have the second highest black/white differential for incarceration between blacks at whites at 11.5!  The criminal justice system is held together by policies and practices, both formal and informal, which influence the degree to which an individual penetrates the system. At multiple points in the system, race may play a role. Disparities mount as individuals progress through the system, from the initial point of arrest to the final point of imprisonment. Court commissioners and judges should think twice when rejecting evidence based models when setting bail or sentencing because scholars have found that people of color are frequently given harsher sanctions because they are perceived as imposing a greater threat to public safety and are therefore deserving of greater social control and punishment. And survey data has found that, regardless of the race of the person in power, the person in power associated African Americans with terms such as “dangerous,” “aggressive,” “violent,” and “criminal.”  Bridges, G. & Steen, S. (1998). Racial disparities in official assessments of juvenile offenders: Attributional stereotypes as mediating mechanisms. American Sociological Review 63(4): 554-570; Eberhardt, J.L., Goff, P.A., Purdie, V.J., & Davies, P.G. (2004). Seeing black: Race, crime, and visual processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(6): 876-893