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Across The Red & Blue Divide: Wisconsinites Talk Criminal Justice Reform

Michelle Matternowski
Director of EX-Prisoners Organizing Jerome Dillard speaks during the panel discussion at the Across the Red & Blue Divide event.

The conversation surrounding criminal justice reform in Wisconsin has the community crossing party lines to talk about solutions.

The Across the Red & Blue Divide event, which took place in Glendale on Sept. 6, included a panel discussion and small group discussion circles.

Panelists included with Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Jane Carroll, Republican Rep. Rob Hutton (District 13), Democratic Rep. David Bowen (District 10), and Director of EX-Prisoners Organizing Jerome Dillard.

Credit Michelle Maternowski
People from across the political spectrum attended the Across the Red & Blue Divide event that focused on criminal justice reform.

Rep. Bowen described what criminal justice reform is to him. “I would say it looks transformative. It redefines everything that we thought before. What punishment is, what success looks like,” he said.

Rep. Hutton explained the impact he’s seen incarceration have on those who’ve been behind bars. “I was always amazed at the number of guys I would talk to that would explain the role that incarceration played in getting their lives turned around and even giving them hope for life outside of incarceration,” he said.

WUWM's Teran Powell shares highlights from one of the small group discussions.

Credit Michelle Maternowski

The audience had a chance to weigh in, as well. During small group chats, one woman told her group that she grew up not feeling connected to the issue, but her opinion has since changed.

“I began to see the criminal justice system affects a lot of people. I had a pretty folk story song experience of the criminal justice system and I see it very differently now,” she explained.

More discussion included what each person thought real reform would look like. And what, if anything, needed to be changed and why.

As the conversation concluded, group members said they want to keep learning about the issue, take back what they heard to their communities, and be part of the solution.

Our next Across The Red & Blue Divide event will take place Nov. 13, more information will be available soon.

Teran Powell joined WUWM in the fall of 2017 as the station’s very first Eric Von Fellow.