Racial disparity in the criminal justice system is worse in Wisconsin than anywhere else in the country, studies say, and it’s worse in Dane County than the state as a whole.
The Minority Impact Statement bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Nikiya Harris, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, seeks to reverse what Pasch calls “institutionalized racism” by requiring a legislative committee to prepare a racial impact statement any time a new crime is created or a criminal penalty for an existing crime is modified.
If the committee finds that a bill will have a disparate impact on racial minority groups, the bill’s author must either offer an amendment to the bill to reduce the disparate impact or provide in writing their reason for advancing a bill that will disproportionately affect minorities.
“We really have to look at why we are passing laws that create this environment and what these laws are accomplishing,” Pasch said. “Wisconsin leads the nation in incarcerating minority men. That puts a responsibility on us to start addressing this in a meaningful way.”
Lawmakers have until the end of Wednesday to sign on and support the bill as cosponsors. Passage of the bill would make Wisconsin the fourth state to require minority impact statements on criminal legislation. Iowa, Connecticut and Oregon have passed similar laws.
Pasch said too many young, minority males start out their adult lives with criminal records, which prevents them from voting, makes it difficult to get a job, find housing and tears families apart.