Senator Tells DOC Secretary More Needs To Be Done For Black Inmates

Lena Taylor Says At Budget Hearings That Disparities Must Be Addressed


A black state senator says the Department of Corrections needs to do more to reduce racial disparities in the state prisons.

At a budget hearing on Monday, state Sen. Lena Taylor told DOC Secretary Ed Wall that parole agents need to do a better job of helping black inmates overcome discrimination in the job market after they’re released from prison.

“If we provide someone with programming inside, but the agents don’t use that to sell them on the outside even though we know based on studies that have been done that there is racial basis that exists on hiring individuals,” said Taylor. “If we’re not making those connections, then we are the Department of Punishment, not the Department of Corrections.”

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Hall said the $2.4 billion biennial prison budget includes $100 million in youth programming aimed specifically at helping low-income African-American juveniles stay out of the criminal justice system. Wall said providing treatment and diversion programs for young men who may be just at the beginning of a criminal career should eventually help reduce the number who wind up in prison.

But state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said the fact that only small portion of the agency’s budget is earmarked for these programs suggests that reducing racial disparities is not high on the DOC’s list of priorities.

The chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, state Rep. John Nygren, said those programs need to prove their effectiveness before the state invests more money in them.

He also said the state has just been selected as one of only three states to participate in a federal Department of Justice program aimed reducing recidivism by using a range of treatment programs that have proved effective in other states.