By, James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world — both per capita and by volume — and Wisconsin locks up a higher percentage of its population than almost any democracy on the planet.
At any one time, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, roughly 41,000 people from Wisconsin are behind bars. Its rate of incarcerating 663 people per 100,000 is five times higher than the United Kingdom, six times higher than Canada, and seven times higher than France, Belgium and Italy.
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Overall, people of color — particularly Blacks — are vastly overrepresented, reported the Prison Policy Initiative. For every 100,000 Black residents in Wisconsin, more than 4,000 are incarcerated. For every 100,000 Native American residents, more than 2,600 are incarcerated. For Hispanic residents, it’s more than 600. For white residents, slightly more than 400.
Many organizations in southeastern Wisconsin help those who have been incarcerated get back on the right path once they have been released. These groups also fight to get laws changed to reduce recidivism and prevent targeting people of color.
Here are a few of those groups:
American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin is the state affiliate of the national ACLU. The nonprofit has 13,000 members and is dedicated to defending civil liberties and civil rights. Nationally and locally, it’s a leading voice for criminal justice reform and its Smart Justice campaign is a multiyear effort to reduce the U.S. prison population by 50% and challenge racism in the legal system.
Phone: (414) 272-4032
The Benedict Center provides services and advocacy for women in the criminal justice system so they can live safer, healthier lives for themselves, their children and the community. It provides mental health and substance abuse treatment, helps women in the street-based sex trade, supports incarcerated women reentering the community and advocates for a more equitable justice system.
Address: 1849 N. King Drive, Suite 101
Phone: (414) 347-1774
Center for Self Sufficiency, located inside of Community Advocates, offers Windows to Work, a program that works with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and Employ Milwaukee. Windows to Work teaches those reentering the community conflict resolution and communication skills. Job readiness and career advancement services, and support services to promote smooth reintegration are also offered.
Phone: (414) 270-4679
Clean Slate Milwaukee assists formerly incarcerated individuals with expungement and pardons. It is a resource hub offering help with job searchers and obtaining education. Since 2012 the organization has been able to expunge 2,200 records and connect 1,189 ex-felons to jobs. The mission is to decrease recidivism by removing barriers to employment and housing
Phone: (414) 627-0067
Employ Milwaukee connects job seekers with employment opportunities and provides education and training options in high-growth, high-demand sectors. The group also provides a skilled and sustainable workforce to attract, retain and grow diverse businesses in the Milwaukee region.
Phone: (414) 270-1700
EXPO of Wisconsin (EX-incarcerated People Organizing) works to end mass incarceration and eliminate all forms of structural discrimination against formerly incarcerated people. EXPO’s members have helped lead campaigns to “ban the box,” which would forbid employers from asking on an initial job application whether an individual has been convicted of a crime; expand funding for Wisconsin’s Treatment Alternatives and Diversion Program; reduce the use of solitary confinement in Wisconsin prisons, and expand funding for the state transitional jobs program. The group has active chapters in Milwaukee, Madison, Eau Claire, Racine, Superior, Wausau, Green Bay, and the Fox Cities.
Address: EXPO of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 259654, Madison, WI 53725
Email: [email protected]
Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope, founded in 1988, is a multiracial, interfaith organization committed to justice issues. MICAH’s membership includes 39 congregations with the goal of empowering people to act together in pursuit of justice through civic engagement, criminal justice and prison reform, education, and job and economic development.
Address: 2821 N. Phillips Ave., Suite 213, Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone: (414) 264-0805
Project RETURN (Returning Ex-incarcerated people to Urban Realities and Neighborhoods) has been working toward social justice for more than four decades. Its mission is to help formerly incarcerated men and women make a positive return to the Milwaukee community. The group helps with job searches, works with landlords to open up housing and provides “circles of support” groups. It also has a women’s support group that focuses specifically on issues facing women who were incarcerated.
Address: 2821 N. Phillips Ave., Suite 223, Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone: (414) 374-8029
Table of the Saints helps those who were incarcerated to make a positive transition into community and family life. The goal is the help the returning citizens with their re-entry process through walking in obedience as men and women of God. The organization provides housing for men; counseling; driver’s license recovery; child support adjustment; mental health treatment; and drug and alcohol counseling.
Address: 2821 N. Phillips Ave., Suite 236, Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone: (414) 374-8029
Wisconsin Community Services has helped reintegrate ex-offenders for several decades. Services offered are behavioral health, electronic monitoring, alcohol and other drug abuse services including transitional housing resources, and community and reintegration services.
Phone: (414) 290-0400