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The state of Wisconsin released new statistic about its prisoners and the racial breakdown is shocking. According to a report from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, one out of every eight men in the state are behind bars.

Even worse, Wisconsin is leads in other prison-related feats.

Policymic reports:

Among the most jarring of findings was that nearly one of every eight black men of working age is currently in prison in Wisconsin. The state also leads all other states in the number of incarcerated indigenous men at 7.6%, with South Dakota following with 7.3%.

The number of Wisconsinites in prison has nearly tripled since 1990 primarily due to “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 violations,” according to the study. The demographic most significantly affected by these changes is African-American men, whose incarceration rates have skyrocketed to nearly twice the national average. Conversely, the national average for incarcerated white men is nearly identical to the state average in Wisconsin. Indeed, according to the study, in Milwaukee County alone, over half of black men in their 30s have spent some time in prison.

Wisconsin holds a steady lead in the percentage of incarcerated black men in the state, beating Oklahoma, the next state, by approximately three percentage points.This gap, NPR notes, is “bigger than the total distance between the second- and 10th-place states.”

The study notes that there is no “quick fix” to solving this alarming trend, but there are several things that can be done to help recently released inmates assimilate to life outside of prison and help gain employment, such as expanded workplace training and reintroduction programs.


With so many arrests on the books, Wisconsin’s  2013 violent crime rates are still expected to be lower than that of 2010, when the state’s numbers were nearly 42 percent below the national average.

Photo: Black Youth Project