incarceration

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Former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson has a new book out, "Tommy: My Journey of a Lifetime." On Wednesday, he spoke about the book, and other aspects of his tenure, at the Marquette Law School's event On the Issues with host Mike Gousha.

Gousha spoke with the former governor about his major regret from his term in office: the prison boom.

Thompson served as governor from 1987 to 2001. He presided over the largest expansion of the state's prison system and opened its toughest prison: Supermax in Boscobel, Wis.

Re-entry into society after incarceration can be hard.

It might not be easy to land a job, and sometimes, it's even harder to keep one.  One company is trying to change that for some of its workers.

Workers for Cedarburg-based Harrigan Solutions are in the business of keeping industrial machines running.

The company has groups of workers they call “crews” stationed and providing machine maintenance at corporations around southeastern Wisconsin.

And members of one of Harrigan's crews all have something in common: they've been incarcerated.

Eddie Herena

There are a lot of depictions in popular culture of prison life such as shows like Orange Is the New Black or movies like The Shawshank Redemption. However, pop culture gets some things right and many others wrong. 

Courtesy of Preshes Johnson

Getting your life on track after being convicted of a crime -- or multiple crimes -- can be a daunting task. Preshes Johnson, a single mom of three children, has bucked the odds. She was discharged from probation early on a felony drug conviction, and has succeeded in obtaining a degree and landing a job in industrial maintenance.

Preshes' story is one of persistence, and of people coming together to give support, but she has certainly been through a lot.

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Expungement is the ability to clear a criminal record or to seal it from public access without a court order. Simply put, it’s a way to be able to move on from a past conviction. 

“The conviction is sort of treated as if it never happened when it is expunged,” says Joe Peterangelo, a senior researcher at the Wisconsin Policy Forum. “The file still exists, but it is not allowed for public access.”

Maayan Silver

Getting out of prison and facing the world can be tough. Community, religious and government organizations try to fill in the gaps by offering help with job training and housing, or transportation and mental health counseling. But still, some people fall through the cracks.

A report earlier this year from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance estimated that Wisconsin’s prison population will hit a record level by 2019.  The number of inmates had fallen somewhat since it reached its high point of over 23,000 a decade ago, but has risen again in recent years.  The nonpartisan group says harsher penalties are largely to blame.

Tracy King, fotolia

Mandatory minimum prison sentencing have been a hot topic as of late amongst Wisconsin lawmakers.

Maayan Silver

Behind the locked doors of the Milwaukee County House of Correction for two hour-long classes every week, an unlikely message emanates.

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Right now, there are more than two million people incarcerated in the United States - but that’s just a small fraction of people with a criminal record.

More than 75 million people living in the United States have been convicted of some kind of crime, most of whom spend the majority of their lives in free society. But just because they served their sentence, that doesn’t mean they’re free from consequences associated with their conviction.

LaToya Dennis

Detention centers aren’t typically known for having green space, especially not in garden form. But there’s a school of practice that believes gardening holds healing powers—even behind bars.

Keith Schubert

Several people who have served time at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility are pushing the state to close it. Members of the Wisconsin branch of EXPO, or Ex-Prisoners Organizing,  issued their call at a meeting Thursday at MATC. The organization's president, Mark Rice, says the Milwaukee facility is unfit, plus it mainly houses people who are not there for committing a crime.

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Across the country and in Wisconsin, the number of youth being held in state run detention facilities is on the decline, according to a study released by Youth First and Urban Institute.

Between 2005 and 2014, the average daily population at Wisconsin run juvenile correction facilities fell by 52 percent. While the numbers are improving, African American youth are disproportionately impacted, making up 70 percent of the population in Wisconsin’s juvenile detention centers.

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Some GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin are looking to get tougher on juvenile offenders. Right now, the state can sentence them to no longer than three year behind bars, but a bill circulating in Madison right now would allow juvenile offenders to be locked up until age 25. While some Republican leaders say the move is necessary to curtail crime, some Democrats prefer a different approach.

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants longer prison sentences for people who commit federal drug crimes. Late last week, he directed U.S. attorneys to seek the most serious charges possible. Sessions says tough action is needed to address the spike in violence in some cities and the opioid epidemic. Jerome Dillard spent time in both federal and state prison, and is now the Wisconsin director of Expo – Ex-prisoners Organizing. It works to end mass incarceration and help former offenders lead productive lives.

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