Questions are already being asked pertaining to the state of Wisconsin and Racine county’s plans to potentially build a juvenile correctional facility in our area.
Of course, any mention of prison building agitates, as it should, many in the Black community. Also adding to those reservations is the fact that the first mention of the planned facility to the public, other than a Facebook post by Supervisor Nick Demske, was at the March 26, County Board meeting.
Another reason for concern is, the task force to explore the feasibility and practicability of the proposal had already been formed before public notification; therefore, automatically disqualifying potential important firsthand knowledge and input from others.
As a Black male I find myself somewhat troubled about projects of this nature because of the following.
It is estimated that of the 1.800 million people incarcerated in America, between 700-800K are Black males. Leading America in the category of African American incarceration is the state of Wisconsin which uses its Southeastern geographical area as the feeding ground for its prison population. Ironically, two of the top 5 worse cities for African American survival in America, Milwaukee and Racine are within the confines of this area.
Also, many of the nation’s incarcerated and previously adjudicated Black males and females have been involved with the criminal justice system since middle school, indicating at least partial truth in the, school to prison pipeline theory*. Research indicates the following astounding statistics:
- Black students make up 40% of the children expelled each year in our nation’s schools. (ironically, in Racine, Wi, for the last few years the disparity which goes unmentioned and apparently unnoticed, hovers around 7,000 Black to 700 white suspensions).
- In America, Black and Latino students constituted 70%, in 2014, in school-arrests*.
- Black students are more than 3.5 times to be suspended than whites.
- Black and Latino students are 2 times less likely to graduate from high school.
- 68% of the prison population, of all races, have no high school diploma.
While all the above bullet points have substance, the reality is that for the most part, they go unnoticed or grossly and purposely, ignored!
Adding further importance to our enquiry on our state’s correctional system, is that there is research by various intellectuals and scholars showing that 1 of every eight Black males in Milwaukee have at one time in their lives been incarcerated in the prison system which indicates a potentiality of purposeful discriminatory issues in the criminal justice system of that city.
As a novice sociologist, I offer a simple but not original hypothesis. I believe, for African American youth, it starts with the difficulties involved in the processes of socialization necessitated and brought on by their interactions with systems of calculated structural racism and systems of class division. Sadly, the teaching of Black socialization leading to the awareness of hyper-racism, once considered a necessity by Black parents, has disappeared into the abyss of wishful enculturation and false assimilation.
Tragically, for Black males in southeastern Wisconsin, the presets for entrance into the juvenile prison starts in middle school (school to prison pipeline*).
Although there has been a 50% decline in Wisconsin juvenile incarceration over the last few years, according to the Urban Institute’s June 2017 report on Black demographics pertaining to juvenile incarceration in the state, the disparity between the races in almost every category of juvenile incarceration remains abnormally high for Black children.
Amazingly, Black youth only make up about 10% of the population in the state, however, in 2013 Wisconsin’s Black youth were 19 time more likely to be detained than white youth and 14.9 times more likely to be incarcerated out of the home than whites.
Of the total number of juveniles incarcerated in Wisconsin 17 years of age and under, 72% were Black as compared to just, 22% white. Although, the numbers for those who were on Community Supervision were somewhat better, Black 57%—-white 39%, the discrepancy still exist.
So, while some folks might hail the impending construction of this project, there are those who see the reasoning as anything but positive.
C.T. 3/31/19 Chester Todd’s One Black Man’s Opinion OBMO