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Documentary Debuts Examining African-American Incarceration In Milwaukee

'Milwaukee 53206' Looks At Effect On Families, Inmates

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

“Milwaukee 53206,” a documentary film looking at the high incarceration rate of African-American men from the city’s 53206 zip code, premiered on Tuesday night at an event that drew community members and several elected officials.

Producer and director Keith McQuirter said he hopes the film draws attention to what he calls a “national crisis of black men disappearing” from family life and into prisons.

“So many people don’t know about this,” McQuirter said. “It’s not on the radar of most people, and this film is a call to action because there should be an outcry about this.”

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Muhibb Dyer, a former 53206 resident, narrates the film’s introduction and appears briefly in one scene. The movie highlights a personal issue, he said.

“It’s more than just a number for me. I have cousins who have done 20 years in prison. I have friends that grew up that fell victim to incarceration and homicide,” Dyer said.

Part of the movie looks at Wisconsin’s Truth In Sentencing law, which limits early release, and its effect on people who were sent to prison before the law was passed in the late 1990s. As a state legislator during that time, Gov. Scott Walker was a main author of the sentencing law.

The audience in a Milwaukee theater stood and applauded at the end of the film.

Elected leaders on hand for the premier included Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who is a key backer of the film, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and state Sens. Lena Taylor and Nikiya Harris Dodd, who represent the north side of Milwaukee, where the 53206 zip code is located.