UNLOADING GUNS AND FLUSHING DRUGS: A Plea for Violence Prevention and Crime Reduction in Milwaukee’s 53206
While most are by now familiar with the various statistics chronicling America’s out of control levels of mass incarceration—2.4 million citizens locked up (roughly the size of Jamaica’s entire population), one out of every 100 Americans behind bars (with one out of every 35 under some form of criminal justice supervision), making us the world’s largest jailer (more than Soviet Russia under Stalin’s infamous gulags)—but perhaps what many did not know is the ignominious local aspect to this trend. Milwaukee’s north side communities, in particular the area proscribed by the 53206 zip code, represents the most incarcerated populace in the country. By extension, this makes the area between North Ave. and Capitol Dr. just west of the I-43 freeway the most incarcerated place ON EARTH. Just think about that for a moment the next time you drive northbound on your way to a Packer game, or southbound to Mitchell Airport to fly out on a family vacation. On the west side of the freeway corridor will be the 53206 neighborhood, while on the east side will be a large tan building with little narrow windows. This imposing beige structure is the Milwaukee County Jail, visible to most of the 53206 community from their front yards, and often the starting point for the 62% of the residents who will spend significant portions of their lives inside the criminal justice system. What with the non-stop roadwork and infrastructure construction constantly underway in the downtown Milwaukee area, one wonders when an actual bridge might be built to transport citizens of 53206 directly across the freeway to the jail.
The problem of mass incarceration did not happen overnight, and likewise a solution will not magically appear anytime soon. Nonetheless, in a step towards addressing the issues associated with the swollen inmate population, and in the spirit of initiatives such as Ald. Hamilton’s May Violence Prevention/Crime Reduction Month, Attorney Robin Shellow along with her client, Kenyon Strong—a resident of these same north side communities, and one who is facing considerable jail time as well—decided to speak out publically and directly to the 53206 community. Below is a mailing which recently went out to one out of every four residences of the 53206 zip code, comprised of a handwritten letter from Mr. Strong and a plea from The Shellow Group to “Flush The Drugs/Take The Bullet Out Of The Chamber” (only The Shellow Group’s side of the mailing is reproduced below). It was not an advertisement, and neither is this. Hopefully, with the example set by Kenyon Strong and the growing awareness of his fellow north side residents–along with continued good faith efforts by the City of Milwaukee’s committed employees and elected officials—with a little luck, perhaps May will only be the first of many violence prevention months leading to a continuous reduction of crime and incarceration across Milwaukee.