City News

‘Derail the Jail’ activists host teach-in on racial injustice in Dane County

The Derail the Jail movement held a teach-in Monday night in order to increase awareness about what they call racially unjust government practices, specifically surrounding mass incarceration.

Image By: Robyn Cawley

Individuals supporting the Derail the Jail movement banded together for a teach-in Monday night to discuss proposed renovations to the Dane County Jail, which will cost nearly $108 million to restore.

Derail the Jail is a coalition fighting mass incarceration in Dane County. The teach-in highlighted issues of housing, health care, criminal justice and community outreach while offering solutions and raising awareness of what coalition members call disproportionate incarceration rates.

The Dane County Board proposed renovations to the jail in hopes of reducing risk to and increasing safety for inmates, staff and volunteers, addressing inmates’ medical and mental health needs, and eliminating or greatly reducing the use of solitary confinement, according to a presentation the board gave in June 2017.

According to the statements of Derail the Jail, the board has made changes to the jail restorations, hoping to fulfill their requests, but failing to understand the influence that mass incarcerations have on the community.

The movement is seeking more student involvement to attend meetings, and spread their message of incarceration inequity and understand the implications of government policies.

“Follow the page on Facebook and just come to a meeting. And, I would love to see more students involved,” said CV Vitilo-Haddad, a doctoral student at UW-Madison. “I think it’s super important, both for student development and activists for wherever they go on in their lives after university and also, it’s really important for Madison.,”.

Members of the Dane County community fear that the plans to improve the jail will not slow down the rate of mass incarceration, saying that it is not getting to the underlying reality of why that rate is so high.

In Dane County, there’s an average of 165 white people incarcerated per 100,000 residents, compared to the 2,366 black people incarcerated per 100,000 residents, according to Derail the Jail member Nino Rodriguez.

That disparity was also mentioned by members of Freedom Inc., a non-profit organization for Black and Southeast Asian individuals, aimed at teaching youth about issues like domestic violence and the presence of law enforcement in schools. Currently, they are spreading the word on the No Cops in Schools movement, which seeks to stop cops from occupying schools.

“We make up most of the population in jail, more than we do out of the jails. And that’s just a disappointment to hear people saying that they want the jails, because there’s so many crimes,” said Shyra Adams, a MATC student and member of Freedom Inc. “And when they are talking about those crimes they are talking about black folks.”

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