ETI Publications

Document Type

Technical Paper

Publication Date



Among the most critical workforce issues facing Wisconsin are governmental policies and practices leading to mass incarceration of African Americans men and suspensions of driving privileges to low-income adults. The prison population in Wisconsin has more than tripled since 1990, fueled by increased government funding for drug enforcement (rather than treatment) and prison construction, three-strike rules, mandatory minimum sentence laws, truth-in-sentencing replacing judicial discretion in setting punishments, concentrated policing in minority communities, and state incarceration for minor probation and supervision violations. Particularly impacted were African American males, with the 2010 U.S. Census showing Wisconsin having the highest black male incarceration rate in the nation. In Milwaukee County over half of African American men in their 30s have served time in state prison. This report uses two decades of state Department of Corrections and Department of Transportation files to assess employment and training barriers facing African American men with a history of DOC offenses and DOT violations. The report focuses on 26,222 African American males from Milwaukee County incarcerated in state correctional facilities from 1990 to 2012 (including a third with only non-violent crimes) and another 27,874 men with DOT violations preventing them from legally driving (many for failures to pay fines and civil forfeitures).