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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Author: Kayleen Jones

Housing Policies Related to Poverty and Segregation in Milwaukee

Wisconsin Public Radio recently published an article called “How Milwaukee’s Economic Social Disparities Correspond with Gun Violence: Measures of Poverty, Education, Housing Align with City’s Segregation” by Scott Gordon. The article highlights how education, poverty, housing, and urban policies have shaped the neighborhoods in Milwaukee, particularly poor black neighborhoods.

The article includes interactive maps for the zip codes of Milwaukee that show these connections. There are four maps focused on homicides, race and education, mental health professional shortage, and poverty and rent. The poverty and rent map shows, by zip code, the percent of the population living below the poverty level and the percent of renters who spend more than 35% of their income on rent.

To read the article click here.

Eviction Made Easier in Wisconsin

In February, Laurel White, of Wisconsin Public Radio reported that the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill that makes it easier for landlords to evict tenants they suspect of criminal activity. Those in favor of the bill argue that it will help landlords evict tenants when police do not investigate the potential criminal behavior. Those against the bill argue that it will hurt low income renters, specifically victims of domestic violence.

To read the bill click here.

To read the WPR article “Assembly Approves Bill To Make It Easier To Evict Tenants Involved In Crime,” click here.

Evicted Book Trailer

Below is the book trailer for the new Go Big Read Book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. A book trailer is a video advertisement for a book which employs techniques similar to those of movie trailers to promote books and encourage readers.

This book trailer gives an overview of what Desmond discusses in Evicted

Watch the book trailer below.

For more information about the book, visit the book’s website by clicking here.

Go Big Read Selects ‘Evicted’ for 2016-17

It’s the story of eight Milwaukee families faced with losing their homes. It’s also a powerful analysis of a little-known epidemic affecting people across the country living in poverty.

“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” the best-selling book by alumnus Matthew Desmond, is the 2016-17 selection for Go Big Read, UW–Madison’s common-reading program.

“This book provides us an opportunity to talk about a little-understood facet of poverty and the profound implications it has for American families, particularly in communities of color,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank says. “I’m proud that an alum has brought this issue to the forefront and I look forward to conversations in our community about this important subject.”

Desmond received his doctorate from UW–Madison in 2010. He is an associate professor of sociology and social studies at Harvard University and an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the UW. In 2015, he received a MacArthur “genius” grant.

In his book, he writes that in the early 20th century, evictions in the U.S. were somewhat rare and popularly contested. Now they have become a frequent occurrence for low-income families, especially those headed by black women.

Milwaukee, a city of roughly 105,000 renter households, sees roughly 16,000 adults and children evicted in an average year, Desmond’s research shows. This is equivalent to 16 eviction cases a day.

“Providing stable housing and lowering evictions is a human capital investment analogous to education or job training — one that has the potential to decrease poverty and homelessness and stabilize families, schools and neighborhoods,” Desmond says.

“‘Evicted’ is astonishing — a masterpiece of writing and research that fills a tremendous gap in our understanding of poverty,” says previous Go Big Read author Rebecca Skloot. “Beautiful, harrowing, and deeply human, ‘Evicted’ is a must read for anyone who cares about social justice in this country.”

Go Big Read has a history of choosing timely topics that are part of the national discussion. This past year’s Go Big Read book, “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, highlights racial inequality and the need to reform America’s justice system. That success offers a bridge to a campus dialogue on Desmond’s central question: “Do we believe that the right to a decent home is part of what it means to be American?”

Initially, “immigration and community” had been chosen as the theme for the 2016-17 academic year, but “Evicted,” with its new insights on strengthening communities and its relevance within and beyond Wisconsin, made it a timely selection, Blank says.

Planning is underway for how students, faculty and staff will use the book in classrooms and for special events. Desmond plans to visit campus and give a talk. Copies of the book will be given to first-year students at the Chancellor’s Convocation for New Students, and to students using the book in their classes. UW–Madison instructors interested in using the book can request a review copy.

The Go Big Read program is an initiative of the Office of the Chancellor.

 

ASPIREist Features Clint Smith

ASPIREist is a new half-hour reality feature news show. Each episode has three features ranging a wide variety of topics. The purpose of the show, according to its website, is to “empower 21st century viewers to take action on issues that matter.” Each feature ends with a way for the viewer to take action about that particular issue.

The first episode features Clint Smith, a researcher of the intersections between race, education, and incarceration from Harvard University. His feature called “The New Jim Crow,” like the Michelle Alexander book, focuses on issues similar to what Bryan Stevenson talks about in Just Mercy. He talks about the the racial inequality in the criminal justice system, children in prison, and the greater problem of mass incarceration. View the feature below.

One of the show’s other personalities is Shiza Shahid, a previous Go Big Read speaker. To view her features, visit the ASPIREist YouTube page here.

For more information about ASPIREist, click here.

Utah Abolishes Life without Parole Sentences for Children

Earlier this year, South Dakota abolished life without parole sentences for children. Last week Utah passed similar legislation. The new law does not allow people under 18 years old to be convicted of a capital crime to life in prison without parole. The law was passed  because law makers believe those under 18 have more of a capacity for rehabilitation.

Other states to have passed similar laws in recent years are Alabama, Hawaii, Connecticut, West Virginia, Delaware, Nevada, Vermont, and Wyoming. A recent Washington Post article “States are getting rid of life sentences for minors. And most of them are red states” states that approximately 2,500 U.S. prisoners sentenced to life without parole were sentenced as children.

To read “States are getting rid of life sentences for minors. And most of them are red states” click here.

Nixon’s “War on Drugs” was Founded on Racism

Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative have focused their work on the unequally high incarceration rates of African Americans. They argue the criminal justice system favors white people, especially in regard to drug offenses. Now there is proof that the criminal justice system’s drug policy’s were formed with exactly that in mind.

David Baum recently published  and article called “Legalize It All: How to Win the War on Drugs” in Harper’s. For the article he references a 1994 interview with John Ehrlichman, Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief. In the interview Ehrlichman says:  “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” In other words Nixon and his advisors had an idea of how devastating thier policies would be to the African American community. The Equal Justice Initiative explains that the legacy of those policies are mass incarceration of black people and deepening institutionalized racism in the country.

To read more about this click here.

To read “Legalize It All: How to Win the War on Drugs” click here.

EJI Receives $1 Million from Google.org

On February 26th, the USA Today reported that Google.org, the philanthropic sector of Google, is giving $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative. Bryan Stevenson had this to say about the partnership with Google: “They have the skills and the knowledge and the innovative techniques to allow us to do this work in a way that engages a broad cross section of our nation.”

EJI was not the only organization to receive racial justice grants from Google.org. Two million dollars were distributed among other organizations in the  Bay area who are working to end racial inequalities in education.

Google is taking an unprecedented stand on racial justice for a technology company. Justin Steele, a Google.org administrator said “Google and our own industry need to do more to promote equality and opportunities for all. Last year Google.org launched a new dedicated effort to support leaders who are doing critical work to end mass incarceration and combat endemic educational inequality for black and brown students.”

To read  the USA Today article “Google gives $1M to Bryan Stevenson’s racial justice effort” by Jessica Guynn, click here.

For more information about Google’s racial justice work, click here.

After More than 40 Years Albert Woodfox Was Released from Prison

This week the New York Times reported that a man had been released from prison after spending many years in solitary confinement. Albert Woodfox arrived at Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1971. He was released on February 19, 2016, after more than 40 years behind bars. Much of his time was spent in solitary confinement because of a crime he did not commit.

In 1972 a white correctional office was killed at Louisiana State Penitentiary. Woodfox and two other men were charged for his murder. No forensic evidence linked Woodfox to the crime. There convictions were based only on testimony from witnesses. Since that time, it has come to light that those witness testimonies were problematic.

For more information, read the New York Times article “For 45 Years In Prison, Louisiana Man Kept Calm and Held Fast to Hope” by clicking here.

Stories of Federal Prison Inmates

In the first few weeks of February, the popular photo blog Humans of New York has featured photographs and stories of federal prison inmates. The inmates are from five prisons across the Northeast. Some inmates tell the story of how they ended up in prison and some talk about what they are doing in prison. One inmate talks about a class he started for parents to send coloring projects, bedtime stories, and other creative projects to their kids. Read his story by clicking here.

Although the blog features mostly people who live in New York City, sometimes photographer, Brandon Stanton, shares stories of people whose voices might not otherwise be heard. In this case that is federal prison inmates. In December he featured stories of Syrian refugees.

To view the blog Humans of New York, click here.