Why Does Wisconsin Lock Up More Black Men Than Any Other State?

What is going on in Wisconsin?

by Gene Demby


A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that looked at the prison population there found that the state has the highest percentage of incarcerated black men in the country. About 1 in 8 black men of working age (13 percent) are in state prisons or jails. The national average is 6.7 percent.

According to census figures, African-Americans make up 6.5 percent of the state’s population.

Wisconsin also leads the nation in the percentage of Native men behind bars; 1 in 13 Indian men are incarcerated there.

Wisconsin, though? Really?

Rates Of Black Male Incarceration By State, 2012

Rates of Black Male Incarceration By State, 2012

Source: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


And Wisconsin’s lead on this count is pretty big: It beats the state with the next-highest rate of imprisoned black men by nearly 3 percentage points — a gap bigger than the total distance between the second- and 10th-place states.

A big chunk of the state’s black male prison population comes from Milwaukee, Wisconsin‘s biggest city. According to the researchers, more than half of all black men in their 30s and 40s had been incarcerated at some point. That means there’s a large population of men in the state’s biggest city who are essentially unemployable, which puts a huge drag on the economy — and a big reason Milwaukee is . (Milwaukee’s metro area also boasts one of the biggest gaps in incomes between blacks and whites.)

And Milwaukee’s poor felons are concentrated in the same neighborhoods: The study also found that almost two-thirds of Milwaukee County’s incarcerated black men come from the city’s six poorest ZIP codes.

Continue Reading @ NPR




2 thoughts on “Why Does Wisconsin Lock Up More Black Men Than Any Other State?

  1. Things have changed from 2005 to 2012, but still contain a surprise:

    “As a percentage of population, the South still incarcerates far fewer African-
    Americans than the North compared to the number of whites incarcerated in those
    states. Those who contend racial disparities in incarceration are a legacy of slavery
    have some explaining to do. Comparing rates of incarceration for whites to rates of
    incarceration for blacks yields a surprise: the greatest incarceration disparities today
    in favor of whites and against blacks are in the North, in the very same states that
    took the strongest stances against slavery. Iowa, Vermont, New Jersey,
    Connecticut, and Wisconsin had the greatest racial disparities as of 2005, all over
    10-to-1, while the Deep South states of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana,
    Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas all had racial disparities of less than 5-to-1.
    Almost without exception, the states of the old Union incarcerate significantly
    greater percentages of African-Americans compared to the percentage of whites
    incarcerated – about twice as many – than the states of the old Confederacy.”
    — from “Prison & Slavery – A Surprising Comparison” (2010)


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