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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Tag: Wisconsin

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.

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.

 

Solitary Confinement Cell at Madison Public Library

A recent Wisconsin State Journal article, “Around Town: Solitary confinement crisis brought home by model cell” by Samara Kalk Derby, profiled the life-size, walk-in model of a solitary confinement cell at the Madison Central Library. At the Library, patrons can walk around the cell and if they want, check out audio of what prisoners in solitary confinement hear, such as moaning, screaming, and other loud noises.

The model cell has been to multiple venues around Madison, including the state Capitol. It’s estimated that 4,000 people have explored the model cell. The cell was brought to the Library to help patrons make connections between this year’s Go Big Read book, Just Mercy, and Wisconsin.

According to information posted outside the cell, between December 2011 and December 2012, Wisconsin placed over 4,000 prisoners in solitary confinement, which was approximately twenty percent of the prison population at the time.

The state Department of Corrections is considering limiting solitary confinement to ninety days. Currently, prisoners can be in solitary for 180 days to an entire year. Although an improvement, ninety days in solitary confinement is still six times the international standard for torture.

The model cell will be on display at Madison Central Library until Thursday, November 12th.

To read “Around Town: Solitary confinement crisis brought home by model cell” click here.

Wisconsin Legislators Circulate Juvenile Justice Bill

As of today, Wisconsin Senator Jerry Petrowski, Representative Rob Hutton, and Representative Mary Czaja are circulating a bill to attempt to reduce recidivism rates among non-violent, first-time 17 year olds.

The bill would cause this type of offender to file their cases in juvenile court rather than in adult court, but excludes violent/repeat offenders who are 17.

“Wisconsin is one of only 9 states that still prosecutes all 17 year olds as adults,” says Senator  Petrowski. “Young people with adult criminal records are less likely to graduate from high school, they have difficulty finding future employment, and face barriers to higher education and military service. The kids we’re talking about are non-violent and are having their first brush with the legal system and they deserve a second chance to become responsible adults.”

Judges will still hold the ability to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to send these offenders to the juvenile or adult system under this bill.

The bill is ultimately intended to reduce crime rates in Wisconsin, reduce recidivism rates among non-violent, first time 17 year old offenders, and save taxpayers money in the long run.

To read the news release put out by the Wisconsin Legislature today, click here.

To read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s blog post about the bill, click here.

Teens Tried as Adults: Wisconsin’s “Slender Man” Stabbing Case

Many of the cases Bryan Stevenson describes in Just Mercy deal with juveniles being convicted as adults, even at the ages of 13 and 14, and spending most of their adult lives in prison. The 2014 “Slender Man” stabbing case is a current example of such issues taking place here in Wisconsin. A recent ABC News article entitled “‘Slender Man’ Stabbing: Teens to Be Tried in Adult Court” by Emily Shapiro discusses the August 10 ruling to try Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier in adult court. Geyser and Weier were both 12 years old when they stabbed their friend Payton Leutner 19 times in the woods surrounding Waukesha, Wisconsin on August 31, 2014. Though Leutner suffered serious injuries, she ultimately pulled through and survived the stabbing. Geyser and Weier were arrested shortly after the crime occurred.

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Image from BBC

Shapiro discusses Geyser and Weier’s fascination with “Slender Man,” a fictional character who supposedly stalks children. The two girls believed that their actions would allow them to live with Slender Man in his mansion in the woods of northern Wisconsin.
In a related article entitled “‘Slender Man’ Stabbing: Not Guilty Pleas Entered for Teens,” Shapiro reports that a Wisconsin court entered not guilty pleas for Geyser and Weier on August 21, 2015. The court did so after the defendants’ attorneys stood mute after being asked to enter pleas, which attorney Maura McMahon described as a way to object to the court’s jurisdiction – in this case, the decision that Geyser and Weier be tried as adults. Geyser and Weier are now both 13 years old, and if they are found guilty of the first-degree attempted homicide charges they face, they could receive sentences of up to 65 years in prison.

To read “‘Slender Man’ Stabbing: Teens to Be Tried in Adult Court,” click here.

To read “‘Slender Man’ Stabbing: Not Guilty Pleas Entered for Teens,” click here.