I know it might be hard to believe, but communities are still segregated–Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for example, is one of the most segregated cities in the United States. This is due to practices such as redlining, which means that communities of color are given less resources and social mobility compared to those that are primarily white. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg–this feeds a vicious cycle.
Due to having less resources, there are higher rates of crime. Higher rates of crime, even for petty crime, equals higher rates of incarceration. According to a report published by the Council On Criminal Justice, Black people are statistically more likely to spend more time being incarcerated than a white person who committed the same crime, and the cycle often repeats–such as for the school to prison pipeline.
Enter the work of ROC Wisconsin, a project of WISDOM – who is hoping to change that.
WISDOM is a grassroots organization largely composed of religious organizations around the state of Wisconsin to enact criminal and racial justice through a number of different programs. These include programs to:
- keep people out of prison by increasing state funding for treatment alternatives and diversions, or TAD, largely impacting nonviolent drug offenders; reform Wisconsin’s sentencing laws by advocating for shorter prison sentences; and increasing the age of juvenile sentences to 17;
- reform prisons by fixing the broken parole system and granting parole to the nearly 3,000 prisoners in the state of Wisconsin eligible to be released on parole; greatly reduce the role of solitary confinement in the prison system, which if used for more than fifteen days is considered a form of torture; increase the use of compassionate release for prisoners for those experiencing the effects of aging or illness; and
- help prisoners successfully return to their community by ending crimeless revocations, or technicalities that send those with prior convictions back to prison
In addition, the organization also has a program titled EXPO, which stands for Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing, giving formally incarcerated people the tools to create change in their communities and use their experiences as a vehicle for positive change.
Milwaukee might be one of the most segregated cities in America, but thankfully, there are organizations working to change that. The work of WISDOM/ROC Wisconsin is important, powerful, and needed – and I encourage each and every one of you to get involved, educate yourself on the issues and policies affecting your state, and donate to this or similar organizations, because we can’t do the work alone. Join me today to achieve true racial and criminal justice and help change thousands of lives.