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April 23, 2013 (Wisconsin Badger-Herald)

Wisconsin leads nation in black male incarceration rates

A new University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study has found that Wisconsin has the nation’s highest rate of incarceration among black men, with drug-related charges being a leading offense.

The study from the UWM Employment and Training Institute found the state’s 12.8 percent incarceration rate among black men is well above the 9.7 percent rate in Oklahoma, the next closest state. The national average is 6.7 percent.

In Milwaukee, the study found more than half of black males in their 30s have been incarcerated, as well as half of black males in their 40s. Two-thirds of Milwaukee County’s incarcerated black males were from the six poorest zip codes in Milwaukee, according to the study.

“The prison population in Wisconsin has more than tripled since 1990, fueled by increased government funding for drug enforcement (rather than treatment) and prison construction, three-strike rules, mandatory minimum sentence laws, truth-in sentencing replacing judicial discretion in setting punishments, concentrated policing in minority communities and state incarceration for minor probation and supervision,” the study said.

Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, said the findings could partly be due to involvement in crime, but also because of the effect of law enforcement policies.

“It is certainly a disturbing indication that there is a problem somewhere that the state incarceration rate is so much higher than the rest of the country,” Mauer said.

Full report here.

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Racial Disparity, Drug Policy, Collateral Consequences