Wisconsin’s Senate Bill 207 allows a business to bar or fire an individual who has been convicted of a felony and to render local laws in Wisconsin useless if they give felons a better chance at employment.
So what is Wisconsin doing to felons? I have three answers. Let see what you have to say about each one of them.
Answer #1 Basically making it even harder for black men to fully participate in society. It’s not as if all black men are felons. But 1 in 4 black men in America is either a felon or ex-felon. – source. And Wisconsin has the second-highest rate of incarceration of African Americans in the country in 2011 according to NAACP.
#2 Keeping a stream of felons moving through our justice system so we can replenish our supply of cheap prison labor.
From Annette Harpole’s statement against SB207 on Oct. 24:
“…Are we not saying as a state then that we have obeyed the letter of the law and allowed the person to go free and walk away from the penitentiary however we are re-incarcerating the person in effect by telling employers on the outside to not hire a felon who has completed their sentence? Why is it OK to employ prisoners while they are incarcerated and pay pennies on the dollar for every hour they work? Yet when former inmates are released from prison, it is suddenly not OK to employ them when they can now make a livable wage. By encouraging employers not to hire former felons the state is basically encouraging past behaviors that will probably make the person go back to prison. Why would the state want that unless they want to employ them while they are in prison and have employers pay them pennies on the dollar for every hour worked, almost like slavery? …”
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And lastly #3:
Disregard the work, the judgement, and the voice of local governments for the benefit of being “open for business”. Have you ever filled out a job application and seen a little box that said “Have you ever committed a felony?” That is “the box”.
From Rebecca Kemble: “Milwaukee County’s ban the box ordinance is hot off the press, having passed at a September 29, 2011, County Board meeting, and there is currently an active campaign in Madison and Dane County to pass a similar measure.” They’re doing that because in their judgement, it’s worth something to our communities to give convicted felons at least a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a job. But that would inconvenience the screening process of businesses. And Republicans of Wisconsin hold a business or corporation above the representative governments of entire communities of Wisconsin citizens, such as Milwaukee County.
You can learn more about the bill in Walker and His Henchmen Try Rolling Back More Civil Rights Protections from The Progressive
Resources I Ran Into Along the Way:
Stats on racial disparity and Wisconsin’s criminal justice system here