© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New report from Wisconsin Policy Forum analyzes state incarceration

Prison cells center right, concrete floor hallway middle left.
Tracy King
Stock Adobe
Wisconsin's spends more on its prisons, and has a higher incarceration rate than any of its neighboring states. The state's Black imprisonment rate is the highest in the country.

Wisconsin spends more per capita on its prisons than any of its neighboring states. It has the highest Black imprisonment rate in the country. And right now, Wisconsin prisons are housing about 4,000 more people than they have room for. A recent report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum highlights these trends and some policy changes that could help.

Jason Stein is the research director at the Wisconsin Policy Forum and is the lead author of the report.

"Our neighboring states are generally below the national average in terms of their imprisonment rates, but we are above it," explains Stein.

Wisconsin imprisons about 344 inmates for every 100,000 people in the state compared to a national average of 316 per 1000,000 residents and about twice as much as neighboring state, Minnesota. As a result, Wisconsin spends about twice as much per capita as Minnesota does.

Additionally, the state disproportionally imprisons its residents. "We have the highest Black imprisonment rate of any state in the country ... If you look at that rate in Wisconsin, it's a little under 12 times that of the rate of imprisonment for white Wisconsinites," says Stein.

While overpopulation and understaffing also contribute to state incarceration challenges, the research also reveals that infrastructure is another factor. Stein says, "It's not only that [the prisons are] over capacity, but many of them are very old. Parts of Waupun were built, I think, pre-Civil War and Green Bay was also built in the 19th century. [Many prisons] don't necessarily have the systems in place and the design in place that would allow them to be run in a better manner for both staff and inmates."

The full report can be found here.


Sam is a WUWM production assistant for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
Related Content