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Still Not Free When They Come Home, a Community Report

How Wisconsin's Criminal Legal System Harms Democracy and the Black Community on Milwaulkee's North Side.

Published By

The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) & Black Leaders Organizing Communities (BLOC)
    This report was researched and written by Amari Rucker, Anita Winston, Broshea Jackson, Dawn Holt, Kenneth Ezell, and Tamer Malone (from BLOC) and Eli Vitulli with project organizing by Matthew Tran (from the Center for Popular Democracy). We want to thank the community members that we interviewed and acknowledge all those who have gone through the criminal legal system and are currently in the system—those that we spoke with and those whose stories we didn’t receive.

    DURING THE FIRST HALF OF 2023, Black Leaders Organizing Communities (BLOC), a Black-led community-based organization in Milwaukee, and the Center for Popular Democracy conducted a participatory action research project where six of BLOC’s member leaders from the North Side of Milwaukee interviewed their family members, neighbors, and other residents of the community about how policing and incarceration impacted their community’s ability to participate in our democracy.

    Community members living on the northside of Milwaukee, where a large share of Wisconsin’s Black residents live, have long experienced racism and state violence, criminalization and incarceration, poverty, and disenfranchisement (having their rights, especially voting rights, taken away). The community also has a long history of civic and political involvement—from civil rights era demonstrations against racial segregation to more recent protests against police violence. Today, its residents are among the most incarcerated in the US—and people often describe one of its zip codes, 53206, as among the most incarcerated zip codes in the country. This horrible status is the result of deeply entrenched historic and ongoing racial segregation, economic exclusion, and targeted policing that have torn at the fabric of North Side families and community for decades.