Area of Milwaukee Unrest Has High Incarceration Rate

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Milwaukee remains in a state of civil unrest after the officer-involved killing last weekend of Sylville Smith, a 23-year old black man police say was fleeing a traffic stop. The reasons for the unrest are as complex and historical as they are urgent, reports The Atlantic’s CityLab. In Milwaukee, blacks endure neighborhood segregation, income inequality, and a disproportionate number of officer-involved shootings. The rates of incarceration for black males set Milwaukee, and and Wisconsin more broadly, apart from the rest of the nation.


The riots broke out in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park on Sunday, just a few blocks from the city’s 53206 zip code, which is 95 percent black and has the highest U.S. incarceration rate. In 53206, nearly every residential block has multiple numbers of ex-offenders with prison records as of 2012. Milwaukee accounts for 70 percent of Wisconsin’s total black population. Over 1990 to 2012, 26,222 black men from Milwaukee County alone had been incarcerated, which means that more than half of African-American men in their thirties and early forties in Milwaukee County have at some point been incarcerated in state correctional facilities, according to a 2013 University of Wisconsin Milwaukee study.

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