Sometimes stereotypes are hard to dismiss. For those living in the last half of the twentieth century, and even today’s younger generation reading history books, the photos of southern white police officers arresting African Americans are a stark reminder of the racial discrimination that divided America, and spurred a civil rights movement. This ugly part of America’s history is not easily forgotten. So, when some people are asked to name the state they believe has the highest number of incarcerated black males, chances are that a state in the Deep South might be mentioned. But that isn’t so.
On May 28 the Sentencing Project announced the publication of a new report, “Wisconsin’s Mass Incarceration of African American Males: Workforce Challenges for 2013,” written by John Pawasarat and Lois M. Quinn of the University of Wisconsin Employment and Training Institute. The Sentencing Project offered the following highlights from the report, which can be read in its entirety by clicking on the link at the end of this article.
Wisconsin has the highest rate of black male incarceration in the country.
One in eight black male residents of the state were incarcerated in 2010, a figure that is double the national average.
More than half of black men in their 30s and 40s had been incarcerated in state correctional facilities and, additionally, that only ten percent of black men with DOC records had a current valid driver’s license.
In the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of people returning from prison, there are 25 people looking for work for every one available full-time job.
Since the 2008 recession, people returning from prison are competing with unemployed and underemployed skilled and unskilled workers for jobs that become available.
Pawasarat and Quinn, according to the Sentencing Project, “suggest the state revise policies that contribute to mass incarceration and use the cost savings to fund employment and training programs for people who are currently or were formerly in DOC custody and to support programs to assist those individuals in getting their licenses reinstated.”