To the Dane County community,
We, the members of the Dane County Board of Supervisors, condemn the murder of George Floyd. The Dane County Board of Supervisors is committed to continuing prioritizing criminal justice reform and equity and inclusion initiatives. At the end of 2019, black persons made up 42.0 percent of the population of prison inmates in the state of Wisconsin, while black people make up 6.4 percent of Wisconsin’s population. Our goal has been to disrupt and dismantle systems that both create and perpetuate racial inequities in our policies, practices and our trainings. We need to have a new goal – disrupting and dismantling those systems now.
We simply cannot continue to incarcerate the number of people we do, and we cannot ignore the outrageous racial disparities that plague our criminal justice system. We must intensify the actions we take to break down racism in the system – from arrest to bail through prosecution and conviction to re-entry into the community.
The Dane County Board has a history of leading on alternatives to incarceration. In the last decade, there has been a 41 percent decrease in the average daily jail population – from 1,293 in 2007 to 759 in 2018. A recent review of bail decisions found that 81 percent of criminal cases were given signature bonds. Dane County has accomplished this through intentional collaboration with our criminal justice partners, and by developing bail reform, expanding electronic monitoring for both the sheriff’s office and the judges, creating community restorative court, expanding alternative courts including drug court and veterans court, supporting deferred prosecution, creating community service sentencing alternatives and more.
Beyond policy changes, criminal justice reform requires intentional investment in proactive and preventative social services and the community. We have expanded funding for housing, comprehensive health and mental health care, child care, employment training, housing and more – but it is not enough. Dane County has invested tens of millions of dollars in mental health services for communities of color. And we have devoted almost $20 million in capital funding for affordable housing and homeless spaces such as the Beacon, Dane County’s homeless day resource center.
In 2015, The Government Alliance on Race and Equity conducted a racial equity analysis of Dane County government. That report recommended that Dane County, “create infrastructure for overall implementation of report recommendations by creating a new office for racial equity and social justice.” The Tamara D. Grigsby
Office for Equity and Inclusion has been charged with meeting many of the goals and recommendations contained in the report.
The Tamara D. Grigsby Office for Equity and Inclusion furthers Dane County’s ongoing commitment to addressing racial, gender, and disabilities disparities. The creation of this office represents the county’s long-term commitment to addressing these issues and institutionalizing the work of raising awareness, eliminating disparities and achieving equity.
The Partners in Equity Grant Program was created in 2017 and supports community-based Dane County groups that propose to use funding to address systemic racial inequities in the criminal justice system. The Partners in Food Grant Program was created to encourage the innovative development of projects that advance equity and access in local food systems across Dane County through educational and outreach services. The county has awarded $260,000 in grants to the community based groups and organizations.
We are calling on all of our colleagues to support us with the continuation of important reforms. We need the city, state and federal government, as well as community groups, the health care system and local business leaders, to assist us by providing funding to create new budget initiatives that will continue to create societal and criminal justice reform and end police brutality.
Institution change must happen now. Investigations in police departments, sheriff’s offices and law enforcement agencies must occur.
Our country is at a critical point. We need to hope for generational change without excuses. We should be much farther in the trajectory. We must acknowledge the frustration, anger and hostility.
This is a historical struggle. The time has come for us to collectively redouble our efforts to destroy systems that further exhaust us. We need a united voice and we must denounce divided voices that further segregate us.
The documentary film “Tales of the Grim Sleeper” reveals that in the early 1990s, southcentral Los Angeles police used a specific code – NHI – for domestic disturbances involving black and Latino families. NHI was shorthand for the designation “no humans involved.”
We are no longer in the 1990s. And we do not live in southcentral Los Angeles. But until we can guarantee that our criminal justice system treats residents of Dane County as fully human, we have our work to do.
We must look carefully at our budget and funding mechanisms; we must get angry at the system, and say, we will do something.