In Hurley, Wis., a truck passes a mural depicting iron ore miners in July 2012. Some residents of Iron and Ashland counties residents hoped a planned iron ore mine would bring more than 700 jobs to the area, but Gogebic Taconite pulled its plan in February 2015.

Most northern counties left behind by Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs agency

While cities like Madison, Waukesha and Green Bay thrive economically, northern Wisconsin counties have been left behind in the state’s economic development efforts. Local economic development leaders share stories of being ineligible for economic development programs brought by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental agency created in 2011 by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Northern counties are also receiving proportionally less help from the WEDC, with many local leaders saying they are ineligible or unable to meet basic requirements for certain programs or incentives.

Racine County Judge Gerald Ptacek applauds after a defendant relates a story of success or progress in Racine County's Alcohol and Drug Treatment Court during this April 2012 session. Drug courts such as this one in Racine are seen as an effective way to cut incarceration costs and recidivism. But minority defendants in Wisconsin tend to be underrepresented in these diversion programs.

Experts: Drug choice, not race, fuels disparities in Wisconsin drug courts

According to a recent study by Washington University in St. Louis, 90 percent of heroin users are white, and most are young and live in the suburbs. By contrast, hospital studies show that African-Americans are much more likely than whites to abuse cocaine. And one University of Wisconsin-Madison expert said heroin addicts tend to commit less violent crimes than those on cocaine; many drug courts exclude violent offenders from participating. The result: Some drug courts, such as the one in Dane County, are now full of white heroin users.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas conducts a hearing with advocates of a drug court participant, who is out of the frame. Colas provided access to the court but forbade photography of defendants to protect their privacy.

Wisconsin drug courts grow, but racial disparities persist

In 2012, about one-third of those arrested for drug crimes in Dane County were black, according to the state Office of Justice Assistance. But African-Americans made up just 10 percent of those participating in the county’s drug court that year, according to Journey Mental Health, a Madison nonprofit that provides treatment and case management for the program.

Locals lose their tower power

A provision passed in last year’s state budget bill greatly restricts the ability of local communities in Wisconsin to reject broadcast towers. Any denial must now be based solely on public health or safety concerns, backed with “substantial written evidence.”

Bonnie Richardson, who was released in 2012 after spending time in prison and jail, now receives mental health care at Shalom Holistic Health Services in Stoughton.

Mentally ill ex-inmates lack treatment, meds

Despite the wake-up call sounded nationwide by recent mass shootings, huge gaps remain in how Wisconsin treats people with mental illnesses who run afoul of the law. State and county officials blame a shortage of psychiatrists, growing demand for services and high medication costs.

Inmate at La Crosse County jail

Ignored and underfunded, mental health care thin at county jails

Key findings:
• Wisconsin’s county-run jails are overloaded with people with mental illness — but services are largely inadequate.
• The state Department of Corrections is charged with oversight but does not evaluate the quality of jails’ mental health care.
• For nearly a quarter-century, the Legislature has required the DOC to collect and summarize annual reports on jails’ mental health care, but most jails have not provided the information, and the DOC acknowledges it has not been asking for them.
• One-third of Wisconsin’s jails have been cited for inadequate suicide prevention efforts.