Incarceration rates more than 2,000% in two Wisconsin counties and more than 1,000% in 18 counties since 1970, according to a new study from the highly-respected Vera Institute of Justice.
The biggest increase in the jail incarceration rate -- 2,598% -- was recorded in Green Lake County, in the east central part of the state. The second biggest increase was in northern Wisconsin's Vilas County, where the rate rose 2,306% from 1970 to 2014, according to data released with the the report, In Our Own Backyard: Confronting Growth and Disparities in American Jails.
Counties with increases of 1,000% or more, besides Green Lake and Vilas, include Door, Polk, Marquette, Dodge, Bayfield, Green, Taylor, Langlade, Barron, Fond du Lac, Ashland, Wood, Columbia, Waushara, Manitowoc, and Kewaunee.
The jail incarceration rate for Milwaukee County, the state's largest county, rose 191%, the 10th smallest increase among the 70 counties for which data was available.
The disparity between Milwaukee and some many smaller counties is not unusual, according to Vera.
Vera is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit center for justice policy and practice.
Nationwide, the institute said, large-county jails "have neither grown the most nor are they necessarily found in the jurisdictions with the highest incarceration rates. Rather, mid-sized and small counties—which account for the vast majority of jails have largely driven growth, with local jail populations increasing since 1970 by 4.1 times in mid-sized counties and 6.9 times in small counties. In contrast, jail populations in large counties grew by 2.8 times."
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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