People have overwhelming come out to say: we want fewer cops, and more investment in people and communities. But right now: our work is at risk!
Politicians in Milwaukee are making decisions that will either continue the city’s carceral and white supremacist approach to public safety, or depart from it to invest in people and communities. This is a time when we need the whole city talking about the budgets, and particularly about defunding police. If you haven’t contacted your local representatives yet, on both the city and county level, now is the time.
What’s at stake this week:
195 more cops. Mayor Tom Barrett proposed three police recruit classes of 65 cops each, which will cost Milwaukee $6 million. Common council will approve it next Monday unless we stop them.
Harm reduction in the jail and house of corruption (HOC). A committee of the county board is hearing a resolution about giving people held in the jail and HOC free phone calls and video visits on Friday, October 29, at 10:30am.
$3 million increase for county sheriff’s office (MCSO). County exec David Crowley proposed raises for MCSO staff, but the county board can shut him down.
$700,000 for lakefront surveillance. Crowley also proposed a system to expand MCSO surveillance and violence on the lakefront.
Divesting $11.3 million MCSO. County board members introduced 24 amendments that will take money from the sheriff and put it into human needs and real public safety.
On October 13, governor Evers almost kind of started making an investment in alternatives to state violence in Milwaukee. He came here to announce $45 million from Wisconsin’s recovery act (ARPA) funds would go into “safer communities and violence prevention.”
Unfortunately, as with his pardon announcements, this is another of his misleading headlines. Behind the headlines, nearly half ($20 million) of the allocated funds are going to supporting victim services through the department of justice. We know them from their work obstructing the release of old law prisoners. That is not violence prevention.
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.
On Thursday, June 24, the Milwaukee County Board will vote on creating 3 new deputy sheriff positions using $300,000 from the county mental health budget. These funds are coming in connection with the Crisis Assessment Response Team (CART) program, which replaces a deputy sheriff with a mental health professional on calls relating to mental health crises.
Please contact your county supervisor (find them here) to demand they oppose the creation of new deputy sheriffs using mental health dollars. When calling, express support for the CART program because replacing deputies with mental health clinicians on mental health calls reduces the risk of people in crisis being assaulted, arrested, and incarcerated. However, it is inappropriate and absurd for the sheriff’s office to use a program that replaces sheriff deputies with clinicians as a reason to take money from the mental health budget to hire more sheriff deputies.
Despite many cultural differences, Wisconsin’s prison system has a similar negative impact on people in both under-resourced rural communities and Milwaukee’s northside. Those who have been cut out of the jobs economy, who’ve been marginalized and neglected by political elites, business owners, and corporations, are more likely to struggle with addiction, despair, and violence. We know what comes next – they end up going to prison.
In prison, negligence, abuse, and confinement cause great and lasting harm. People then return with that trauma to the same struggling communities they were taken from. The addedhe stigma of a criminal record further removes them from economic opportunities. They become more likely to resort to crimes of survival, or of addiction and emotional distress. In this way, prison drives up crime. It contributes to a cycle of harmful behavior, of people hurting their neighbors. Continue reading “Prison Hurts All of Wisconsin.”