“Municipal courts, as we are fond of saying, are not broken. They are a coercive apparatus perfectly suited to limiting the mobility (physical, economic, and political) of racialized subjects. They will produce what they are designed to produce until they are abolished.” – Brendan Roediger
Milwaukee exercised its option to create a municipal court in 1975. Since that time, Milwaukee Municipal Court has played an important role in legitimizing police, expanding the scope of the legal punishment system, and has extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from Milwaukee residents, primarily Black residents who are experiencing poverty. In 2015, several of Milwaukee’s Common Council members publicly considered abolishing the municipal court.This piece will explore the harms perpetrated by the municipal court and show that Milwaukee Municipal Court must be abolished.
This is the second in a three-part series about closing the illegal youth prisons in Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake (LH/CL). Part one outlined the best and fastest way to close these prisons: by eliminating the Serious Juvenile Offender Program (SJOP) and adult sentencing of youths. These bad laws were inspired by the racist “superpredator” myth which requires the state to lock some kids in extra harmful “type 1” facilities. In part two, we’re going to examine why that didn’t happen, and the foolishness that happened instead.
The Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons (LH/CL) in Irma, WI have been illegally confining children since July 1, 2021. More than seventy percent of the kids are Black, and nearly half are from Milwaukee county. Starting in 2010, kids in these prisons successfully exposed horrific abuse practices by staff. By 2017, the kids and their advocates had drawn investigations from the media, the state, and federal agencies. They built so much momentum that the legislature passed and the governor signed Wisconsin act 185, which required that both prisons close by January 1, 2021.
Unfortunately, when that date approached, rather than closing the prisons, politicians passed a new law pushing closure back to July 1. The second deadline passed this summer, and the prisons were not closed. No new law extended the deadline. The state just continued operating illegally.
Which sends a pretty clear statement: Wisconsin politicians are willing to ignore and violate state law when it comes to abusing Black kids from Milwaukee.
[edit: this article originally stated that the October 4 public hearing would be at common council chambers. The common council has decided to do the meeting virtually, due to the ongoing pandemic numbers.]
Defunding and abolishing police have become a national conversation since the burning of the 3rd precinct in Minneapolis, but abolitionists and organizers in Milwaukee were fighting to defund police for years prior to that, and with some success. This year we need everyone involved to keep up the fight!
Why we need to defund MPD
Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) has consistently proven itself to be violent, racist, and ineffective. Each year, Milwaukee residents spend nearly $300 million dollars on policing, which represents approximately 45% of the city budget. Elected officials have divested in our communities to expand police funding. It seems they are resigned to surveillance and incarceration as the primary means for addressing social problems.
This article is part four of a series on legislation to create snitch houses, also known as “COP houses” across Wisconsin.
While advocating for snitch houses, senator Taylor made backroom deals with the republican establishment. She says she’s looking for community houses that provide wrap-around services, but what’s actually happening is police are taking control of resources and services, while expanding their role in society.
In early May, SB124 and AB258 were amended to remove the appropriation of grant funding, expand eligibility requirements to include smaller cities, and add a few usage specifications. Kelda Roys was the sole vote against this amendment in the senate committee, but she ultimately ended up voting in favor of the bill. During the May 18 assembly committee hearing, Mark Spreitzer asked the senators, “why [they] took the money out of the bill […] is it going to be a two year thing, or ongoing?
We are inviting all Wisconsin Democrats and all organizations addressing prison issues to publicly join the 3 demands of Governor Evers. Please sign the petition, and forward it to friends, and most importantly, public figures you follow and to your elected officials.
Below is an open letter we’ve sent to more than 120 Wisconsin members or affiliates of the Democratic party, including assembly and congressional representatives, state and federal senators, county board supervisors, city council members, party officers, and more. We are also sending the open letter to a wide variety of state and local media.
At last month’s Parole Commission staff meeting, the Chair, John Tate II made an interesting statement about the number of people the commission had granted releases to in the last year. Last Saturday, April 3, was the National Freedom Movement’s ParoleWatch2021 event, and the commission’s next monthly meeting is Wednesday morning (you can attend at 10 am via zoom here). so this seems like a good time to go in-depth about Tate’s work on the commission.
John Tate II came into his role as a reformer. He is a very diplomatic man and he’s in a delicate situation. Some who know and trust him believe he is doing the best he can in that situation, but anyone who is suffering, or knows and loves someone suffering in prison under the old law, knows that John Tate’s best has not been good enough.
If justice, fairness, reason, or any higher minded values held sway in Wisconsin, everyone serving under the old law, all 2800 of them, would be released by now. Organizers with FFUP, WISDOM, and the ACLU have been fighting to release people sentenced under the old law for years. The 53206 documentary featured the intransigent corruption of the parole commission in regards to one family: Baron and Beverly Walker. The commission and two-faced Milwaukee DA John Chisolm caved to pressure in Baron’s case, but they were very careful to ensure that his release would not create a precedent for the thousands of others in his same circumstances.