By Nyesha Stone
I’m sure if you’re Black then you know at least one other Black person that’s in jail, especially if you live in the city of Milwaukee. According to City on a Hill, Inc.’s website, “Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate for African American men in the nation, with 12.8% (or 1 in 8) of black men in state prison and local, nearly double the national average of 6.7%.” Many of those in jail are people of color who’ve received time behind bars who should’ve received an alternative option. Many know that the criminal justice system needs reform which is why a panel was put together to discuss the topic.
Wisconsin State Rep. David Crowley is the organizer of the panel, and he invited Eric Holder, the 82nd Attorney General of the United States, Tony Evers, the Democratic candidate running to replace Gov. Scott Walker and Mandela Barnes, the candidate for Lt. Governor to speak on the topic with Judge Valarie Hill.
The paneled discussion was held this past Tuesday on Sept. 18 at Coffee Makes You Black, 2803 N. Teutonia Ave.
The restaurant had a full house with many people left standing. Community members sat for over an hour to hear what these three men had to say.
When asked what criminal justice reform means to each of them, they all spoke passionately about it.
“We have to understand there’s a connection between social justice issues and crimes down the line,” said Holder about how poverty plays a role into criminal activity. According to Holder, not everyone deserves to be locked up and he also stated that we need to expand and create more rehabilitation programs for those who’ve been incarcerated.
Evers went on to say we need a governor who cares about these types of issues because we don’t currently have one. And, without the bigger people helping the community, especially when it comes to the policies, it’s hard to change the ways of society.
“We have to make sure we’re giving everyone equal opportunities,” said Evers.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Barnes knows first-hand about the struggles Black and Brown individuals face every day when it comes to the law.
Barnes says the Milwaukee community has to shift the paradigm and pay close attention to the real vision behind each candidate.
“[We need to make] conscious decisions when we exercise our right to vote,” stated Barnes.
The paneled discussion covered all topics revolving around criminal justice reform, such as education.
Education is one the main keys to stopping the school-to-prison pipeline. Evers said it starts with quality early childhood education for every Wisconsin child.
“When kids need an extra lift, they get an extra lift,” no matter how much it costs, said Evers.
Each of the men agreed that there are many issues that need to be fixed to truly reform criminal justice, and it takes everyone (individuals, community members, leaders, Congress, Washington–Madison in Wisconsin’s case) to make this reform