Black people incarcerated twice as much in Dane Co. than nationally, study finds

Race and ethnicity disparities were among the topics discussed at the Dane County Criminal Justice Council meeting.
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)((Source: KAIT-TV))
Published: May. 27, 2021 at 9:59 PM CDT|Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 10:15 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Though Dane County has a low jail incarceration rate when compared to the national rate, the incarceration rate for Black residents is more than twice the national incarceration rate, according to a JFA Institute report.

Dr. James Austin of JSA Institute presented on Dane County jail race and ethnicity disparities—specifically focusing on the point of arrests—at the Dane County Criminal Justice Council meeting held on Thursday, May 27.

In 2019, the CJC and JFA Institute collaborated to complete an analysis of the drivers of the jail population.

“This unique collaborative approach to analyzing bias at the point of arrest, demonstrated ongoing research that indicates social economic status is often the driver for offenses, and subsequent police interaction,” Dr. Austin said. “However, analysis like this one, can point to strong alternatives and need root cause improvements--as well as bias in the arrest decision by race.”

One of the key findings in the report revealed the Dane County Black arrest rate is eleven times higher than the White rate and also twice as high as the U.S. Black arrest rate. The higher arrest rate for Black residents persists for all types of crimes.

Other key findings include (as listed in the JFA Institute report):

  • About 10% of all Black people are arrested at least once a year in Dane County as opposed to 1% for all other racial and ethnic groups.
  • The percentage distribution of the current jail population is virtually identical to the arrest distribution which again shows the primary source of disparity occurs at the point of arrest.

Newly appointed sheriff Kalvin Barrett said these findings are not surprising.

“Although not surprising, the statistics in the JFA report are sobering,” Sheriff Kalvin Barrett said. “I look forward to working in partnership with under-represented communities, criminal justice leaders, and other community champions to create better outcomes and alternatives for our residents.”

The full list of findings can be found in the JFA report.

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