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Color of justice; dark history at Indigenous boarding schools; power of vaccination; misinforming chiropractors; PFAS-shuttered water wells

 

Of note: This week we highlight our story revealing that Wisconsin has the highest Black incarceration rate in the United States. According to a new analysis from The Sentencing Project, Wisconsin imprisons one out of every 36 Black adults in the state. The analysis also examined the disparity in imprisonment rates between Black and white people, Clare Amari reports for Wisconsin Watch. Nationwide, Black adults are imprisoned at nearly five times the rate of white Americans, the report found. In Wisconsin, the ratio is far higher: Nearly 12 times the rate. The report cites pervasive racial bias across the criminal justice system.

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Ramiah Whiteside of Milwaukee holds a sign during a protest against the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin prisons outside of the governor’s mansion in Maple Bluff, Wis., on Nov. 24, 2020. Whiteside, who is formerly incarcerated, calls Wisconsin’s highest-in-the-nation rate of imprisoning Black residents “a slap in the face.” Whiteside works for Milwaukee-based EXPO, which advocates for formerly incarcerated people. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin imprisons 1 in 36 Black adults. No state has a higher rate.

Wisconsin Watch — October 14, 2021

Wisconsin imprisons Black residents at a higher rate than any other state in the country, a new report found, highlighting long-standing and deep disparities in the state’s criminal justice system. The report, authored by The Sentencing Project and released on Wednesday, used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics to calculate states’ rates of imprisoning white residents and people of color. A “staggering” one of every 36 Black Wisconsin adults is in prison, the report found. Black people comprise 42% of the Wisconsin prison population, but just 6% of the state’s population.

Related from Wisconsin Watch: Wisconsin schools called police on students at twice the national rate — for Native students, it was the highest

Gov. Tony Evers apologizes for Indian boarding schools in executive order on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Green Bay Press-Gazette — October 11, 2021

Gov. Tony Evers visited the Oneida Reservation on Monday and signed an executive order that formally apologizes for the mistreatment and abuse of Indigenous children suffered at boarding schools in Wisconsin. “These stories have been erased from mainstream history books,” Evers said during a presentation at the Oneida Nation’s Norbert Hill Center. “We don’t know the full scope of these boarding schools in Wisconsin and the U.S.” Thousands of Indigenous children from Wisconsin attended these boarding schools, some voluntarily and many involuntarily, starting in the late 19th century and stretching well into the 20th century.

See this powerful photo essay from the Cap Times: Hoocąk: People of the big voice

Why Wisconsin’s Covid breakthrough numbers show the power of vaccination

PBS Wisconsin — October 12, 2021

State data show that COVID-19 poses a significantly larger risk for unvaccinated Wisconsinites within all age groups. Between February and August, Wisconsin COVID-19 hospitalization rates hovered between six and 15 times higher among unvaccinated Wisconsinites in all age groups eligible for vaccination. For adults 55 and older, death rates were between eight and 27 times higher among those who were unvaccinated, depending on the age group. Death rates were zero for fully vaccinated adults 54 and younger — as they were for vaccinated and unvaccinated children under the age of 18.

Related from WPR: Delta ‘opened the door’: Rural deaths from COVID-19 now higher than in urban areas

Anti-vaccine chiropractors rising force of misinformation

Associated Press — October 8, 2021

The postcard covered with images of syringes beckoned people to attend Vax-Con ’21 to learn “the uncensored truth” about COVID-19 vaccines. Participants traveled from around the country to a Wisconsin Dells resort for a sold-out convention that was, in fact, a sea of misinformation. The featured speaker was the anti-vaccine activist featured in the 2020 movie “Plandemic,” which pushed false COVID-19 stories into the mainstream. The convention was organized by members of a profession that has become a major purveyor of vaccine misinformation during the pandemic: chiropractors. A vocal and influential group within that profession is capitalizing on the pandemic by sowing fear and mistrust of vaccines.

Eau Claire shuts down half its wells after finding more widespread ‘forever chemical’ contamination

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — October 12, 2021

Eau Claire has shut down half its 16 drinking water wells after hazardous PFAS — sometimes called “forever chemicals” — were found to be migrating into new wells. Lane Berg, Eau Claire’s utilities manager, said the migration was found after the city shut down four wells in July and weekly testing confirmed the movement. Though half the city’s wells are closed, water supply has not been affected at this point. The city closed down the first of its wells due to PFAS contamination after testing found levels of the chemicals higher than the recommended level of 20 parts per trillion by the state Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health Services. The wells with elevated levels showed results ranging from 21 to 70 parts per trillion.

Read more about PFAS in Wisconsin: ‘The middle of a massive contamination’: Residents of Wisconsin region struggle with aftereffects of dangerous ‘forever chemicals’

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.