Latest Stories

Low pay leads to double subsidies for retail companies, group says

Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for accountability in economic development, generally recommends against taxpayer subsidies for retail companies such as Kohl’s Corp.

The group’s research director, Philip Mattera, said retail positions tend to be low-paid, part-time jobs.

In 2012, Kohl's Corp. was awarded up to $62.5 million in tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., in part to build a new headquarters and expand its Wisconsin workforce by 3,000 workers. But disappointing sales figures caused the company to pull back, instead opting to acquire and renovate space near the existing headquarters. The company also has created just 473 of the 3,000 jobs it plans to add.

Scott Walker’s untold story: Jobs lacking after big state subsidy of Kohl’s stores

In its first 15 months of existence, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. awarded $126 million in incentives to 24 companies without a full financial review. Some deals turned out well, others have failed. The largest — up to $62.5 million in tax credits to Kohl’s Corp. — so far has not generated the number of jobs or amount of capital spending promised.

Your Right to Know: Court loss could prove costly

Newspapers are usually reluctant to go to court. But sometimes we must, to protect our ability to report the facts readers need to assess the performance of their elected officials.

Attendees at a rally against solitary confinement spend time inside a mock solitary confinement cell outside the state Capitol in Madison in October. The cell, built by the statewide group Wisdom, is based in part on drawings made by former inmate Talib Akbar during one nearly yearlong stint in isolation.

Wisconsin joins national push to curb solitary confinement

Wisconsin has made a “culture shift” in its use of solitary confinement in prisons, eliminating it as punishment for minor rule infractions and cutting the time inmates spend in isolation for more serious offenses, Department of Corrections officials revealed in an interview granted as part of a legal settlement with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

President Obama: Solitary confinement ‘not smart’ and ‘not going to make us safer’

President Barack Obama called for reduction of solitary confinement during a July 14 address to the NAACP National Convention in Philadelphia:

“I’ve asked my Attorney General to start a review of the overuse of solitary confinement across American prisons. “The social science shows that an environment like that is often more likely to make inmates more alienated, more hostile, potentially more violent. Do we really think it makes sense to lock so many people alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, for months, sometimes for years at a time? That is not going to make us safer. That’s not going to make us stronger.

Billionaire Charles Koch: ‘Reversing overcriminalization and mass incarceration will improve societal well-being’

In a Jan. 7 column for Politico Magazine, billionaire Charles Koch said the United States is paying a “heavy price” for leading the world in incarceration, driving a large number of people into poverty and harming the national economy. “Reversing overcriminalization and mass incarceration will improve societal well-being in many respects, most notably by decreasing poverty,” Koch wrote in the column co-authored with Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden. “Fixing our criminal system could reduce the overall poverty rate as much as 30 percent, dramatically improving the quality of life throughout society — especially for the disadvantaged.”

Former Wisconsin inmate Talib Akbar, seen here in the RV that he now calls home, discusses the psychological toll that spending years in isolation can have on a prisoner. He said he doesn’t mind living in his 1981 Dodge Country Squire. “I’m free to go. So I’m happy.”

Making friends with a fly: One man’s story of solitary confinement

Former inmate Talib Akbar says years spent in segregation in the Wisconsin prison system took a toll on his mind. Akbar now lives alone in a small RV that he parks around Madison while volunteering for Wisdom, a statewide faith-based group that campaigns against solitary confinement. The drawing Akbar made while confined in a cell at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel was used to help make a mock-up of a typical 6-foot-2-wide, 12-foot-long segregation cell that Wisdom takes to public events to raise awareness about solitary confinement. Akbar, 62, served a 20-year sentence for sexual assault until his release in 2013. He said he has never added up the exact amount of time he spent in solitary.