Racial Disparities and Police Brutality (The Facts)

August 3, 2019

Incarceration and other Racial Disparities in Dane County and Wisconsin

Racial Disparities in Dane County:

  • 25% Black unemployment rate, compared to 4.8% for whites
  • 74% of Black youth live in poverty, compared to 5.5% of white youth
  • Black students are 15 times more likely to be suspended from school than whites
  • Black youth face a 15 times greater risk of being put in foster care than whites
  • Black youth are 15 times more likely to spend time in county detention than whites
  • Black teens are 6 times more likely to be arrested than white teens
  • Black adults are arrested at a rate of 8 to 1 compared to white adults
  • 11 to 1 by Madison Police Department in 2013 according to updated statistics
  • Black men make up 4.8% of Dane County and 43% of the Dane County Jail

Source: Race to Equity: A Baseline Report on the State of Racial Disparities in Dane County. Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Madison, WI. 2013.

Racial Disparities in Imprisonment in Wisconsin:

  • More than 50% of Black men in their early 30s in Wisconsin have been in state prison
  • Nearly 13% of Wisconsin’s working-age Black men are in jail or prison, the highest incarceration rate in the United States
  • Nearly 8% of Wisconsin’s working-age Native American men are locked up
  • Wisconsin’s prison population is more than 40% Black; Blacks comprise 5% of Wisconsin’s voting-age population
  • ex-felons under correctional supervision, and those currently in prison or jail cannot vote   in Wisconsin
  • Only about 10% of Black men with incarceration records hold a valid Wisconsin driver’s license

Sources: Pawasarat, John and Lois M. Quinn. Statewide Imprisonment of Black Men in Wisconsin. Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2014.

Pawasarat, John and Lois M. Quinn. Wisconsin’s Mass Incarceration of African American Males: Workforce Challenges for 2013. Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2013.


Police Homicides, Excessive Force and Non-Indictments

Justified Homicide:

The methodology the FBI uses to collect information on police “justified” homicides is lacking. Only 750 of 16,000 police precincts report.

In 2013, the FBI tallied 461 “justifiable homicides” committed by law enforcement. This is the highest number in two decades, even as the nation’s overall homicide rate continues to drop. The FBI records a homicide as "justifiable" when there is not a conviction of the law enforcement official. (http://www.gannett-cdn.com/experiments/usatoday/exp/police-shootings.svg)

Homicides committed by on-duty law enforcement made up 3 percent of the 14,196 homicides committed in the United States in 2013. (http://www.thenation.com/article/190937/why-its-impossible-indict-cop)

The Department of Justice has offered its own study that estimates approximately 900 justified police homicides a year. Here is an article that summarizes that study: http://www.vox.com/2015/3/5/8156689/police-shooting-deaths

Between 1991 and 2013, an average of 96 black people have been killed by white police officers each year. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/11/police-killings-hundreds/18818663/?siteID=je6NUbpObpQ-kjMP3xkzQ3NGDhFex0riUQ)

Excessive Force:

Plumhoff v. Rickard, 2014. In a 9-0 Supreme Court decision the justices decided that it was not "excessive force" when police shot 15 rounds in car after a high speed car chase, killing the car's driver and passenger. The court wrote, “that if police officers are justified in firing at a suspect in order to end a severe threat to public safety, the officers need not stop shooting until the threat has ended.” (http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/plumhoff-v-rickard/)


Graham v. Connor, 1989. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that “the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.” It is because of this case that officers are rarely indicted when the kill civilians. They can claim they reasonably feared for their life and acted accordingly. (http://hanfordsentinel.com/news/local/crime/use-of-force-what-does-the-law-say/article_04a4ad69-7dd5-5099-a1e8-e764ab26c9b2.html)

Our Demands

August 3, 2019

1. No new jailBuild The People Not The Jail. Immediately abandon and denounce proposals under consideration with the Dane County Board of Supervisors for a new or renovated Dane County Jail. YGB instead proposes human rights solutions that make jails obsolete. Those solutions include ensuring the human right to housing, food, education, and health care for Black people.

2. Invest in the Black community – When the most marginalized win, everyone wins. Black people have historically been the most impacted by the various forms of state violence. Solutions to this violence must address root causes from the viewpoint of those most impacted. YGB therefore demands investment in Black community-led resources and alternatives aimed at addressing the root causes of racial disparities.

3. Release the 350 - Immediately release 350 Black people locked up in the Dane County Jail due to crimes of poverty. When legislation and policies create barriers that result in poverty, that poverty is a form of state violence. In Dane County 75% of Black children are living at or below the poverty line. The Madison Police Department arrests Black people at a rate of 11 to 1 compared to whites. While 6% of the County population is Black, the Dane County Jail population is nearly 50% Black. Each day, the Dane County Jail houses around 800 people. Without structural racism, the jail should be only 6% Black and not 400 black people incarcerated in Dane County Jail. In order to directly address racial disparities in the jail, YGB demands the release of 350 Black people incarcerated due to crimes of poverty. Let them out and keep them out.

*Poverty and Incarceration statistics taken from “Race to Equity Report”

4. End solitary confinement – Mental health officials confirm that solitary confinement (and any involuntary confinement) is a direct assault on the mental wellness of a person. It is unjust and inhumane. Most of the people in solitary confinement in Dane County Jail and in the US are Black. As such, Blacks are most impacted by the violence of solitary confinement and as a result many develop mental wellness challenges or a worsening of previous mental wellness challenges. So YGB demands an immediate end to solitary confinement. 



On March 6th Tony Robinson, a 19-year old unarmed Black youth was killed by white police officer Matt Kenny, after being shot at least 5 times in the chest and head.  After reviewing the Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI's) report, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne will decide whether to indict Officer Kenny. As our greatest power is people power, Young Gifted and Black (YGB) calls for solidarity actions across the country the day of, or the day following the results of the DA's decision.  YGB has held weekly actions since the day following the non-indictment of Darren Wilson to push for addressing state violence against Black people in Madison and Dane County. 

Tony's death is tragic, but we are not surprised by it.  We know he is in line with Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Aiyana Jones, Eric Garner, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tarika Wilson, Tamir Rice and every other Black person killed every 28 hours by law enforcement, security officials or vigilantes.  Due to the overwhelming lack of charges brought about for police officers in these killings we do not expect justice for Tony Robinson to come from the system that killed him.  We are calling on you to help bring him justice in the streets and in long-term changes in your communities across the country.

For us, our specific demands include:

1. A Dual Track Independent Investigation conducted by the United Nations and Organization of American States – Because local and federal officials have demonstrated the inability- or unwillingness- to protect or bring justice to our communities, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) must conduct the independent investigation on dual tracks: first, the killing of unarmed 19 year old Tony Robinson by Madison police officer Matt Kenny. And second, the gross racial disparities in employment, education and wealth in Dane County, Wisconsin, as well as the use of police as an occupying force in Black communities. These deaths are the grossest examples of human rights violations against the Black community and deserve to be brought the attention of an international audience.                                

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August 3, 2019

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August 3, 2019


A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart. I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which was created for the bliss of souls like mine. I am so happy, my dear friend, so absorbed in the exquisite sense of mere tranquil existence, that I neglect my talents.

A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart. I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which was created for the bliss of souls like mine.[/note]