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WUWM & MPTV Special SeriesWhy are so many Wisconsinites behind bars?And, what are the costs?In the 2010 Census, Wisconsin had the highest percentage of incarcerated black men in the nation. One out of every eight black men of working age is behind bars. In Milwaukee County, more than half of African American men in their thirties have served time in prison.Over the course of six months, WUWM and MPTV explored Wisconsin's high rate of black male incarceration, through expert analysis and personal stories.Why is the rate so high?How does imprisonment affect the men and their futures, as well as their families, neighborhoods and the region's economy?What are possible solutions?Contribute Your IdeasDo you have questions you'd like to have answered? Stories you'd like to share? Please share your questions and comments with us.

Former Milwaukee Inmates: 'I Am More Than My Record'

Cynthia Hoffman

Tens of thousands of black men living in Milwaukee have criminal records. In many people’s eyes, the men’s records define them. We asked how they define themselves. 

Wisconsin has the highest rate of black male incarceration in the nation. Over the past six months, Project Milwaukee: Black Men in Prison examined the reasons for the statistics, the impact of the state's high incarceration rate and possible solutions.

At community events around Milwaukee, former inmates and their family members stepped forward to complete this sentence:"I am more than my record. I am..." Here are some of their stories.

William Briggs was sentenced to nine months and served six behind bars for misdemeanor 4th degree sexual assault. He describes himself as a husband and father, who is currently doing a two-year apprenticeship in cosmetology.

Stanley Triblett has 13 grandchildren, ages 3 months to 14 years. He was incarcerated twice in state prison for theft and a felony drug charge. He also has been found guilty of multiple misdemeanors. "People need to know that just because I've been incarcerated that I'm still a person and can be a productive member of society," Triblett says. "However, it's kind of hard to do it on my own, so I do need people...to give me a helping hand."

If you wish to share your More Than My Recordstory,complete this form and email a photo to maternow@uwm.edu.

For your photo, please use a dark pen and a white sheet of paper to write a few words, which you use to describe yourself. What defines you, other than your record?

If you are submitting a photo for a loved one who is incarcerated, please add the words to the top of the piece of paper: “My husband is more than my record, he is…” or “My son is more than my record, he is...”

You can also follow @WUWMradio on Twitter and share your story by using the hashtag #MoreThanMyRecord.

To view all of the More Than My Record submissions, visit morethanmyrecord.tumblr.com.

Credit WUWM
John Darrell Smith is a husband, worker and youth pastor. He has been out of prison for 12 years, after serving two years for felony possession with intention to distribute for cocaine and marijuana. He was previously incarcerated for drug crimes and later for misdemeanor sexual intercourse with a child age 16 or older, when he was in his early 20s. His story is one of those WUWM collected for 'More Than My Record', a part of the Project Milwaukee: Black Men in Prison series.