Equity Challenge: Week 17
In week 17 of our Challenge, we continue to explore racism in our societal structures by examining the criminal justice system.
We also want to take a brief pause this week to acknowledge and address some feedback we’ve received about the Challenge, including definitions and resources shared in previous weeks. As our topics have shifted from internalized, interpersonal and institutional racism to structural racism, some participants have felt definitions and materials have been limited to one political perspective. We’re grateful for the feedback and the opportunity to think critically about the resources we’ve shared, and how we move forward with this and future Challenges.
We know that our Challenge participants come from a diverse array of backgrounds and perspectives. As members of the Wisconsin community, your views and beliefs are important, and we appreciate you sharing your thoughts.
As part of our own reflections, we wanted to restate our reason for hosting (and taking part in) the Challenge. United Way fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. That work calls us to confront challenges and disparities in our communities and state. As demonstrated in the ALICE data and other research, there is evidence that Wisconsin residents face disparities along racial and ethnic lines in each pillar of our work – Health, Education, and Financial Stability, which we recognize as the building blocks for a good quality of life and strong community. We want to understand these disparities and the experience of our neighbors better so that we can create lasting change that leads to quality lives for all.
This Challenge is meant to learn from new and different perspectives, deepen understanding, share ways to take action, and help launch what we hope will be a lifelong commitment to improving equity and inclusion in our state and communities. We think these conversations are opportunities for growth, though we also acknowledge racial equity is just one part of how we make our state and communities better for every member.
Sometimes just the mention of race and racism can feel controversial, and, admittedly, resources we have shared include quotes from some politicians and references to political views. Our goal is to provide access to perspectives and information on complex systems, and politics is historically part of the complexity. However, we continue to endeavor to focus on policy, not politics and to work toward uniting, not dividing. We believe that we can disagree and still love one another – but we cannot tolerate oppression or views that deny the humanity and experience of members of our community. We believe that to Live United, we must Live United for everyone.
We know that this conversation can be tiring and sometimes uncomfortable, which is why we are grateful for your continued engagement in our Challenge. Thank you!

Week 17: Criminal Justice System
  • Did you learn something new or surprising? Were there views that differed from your own understanding of the criminal justice system? How did that make you feel?

  • Have you had experience with the criminal justice system? How did it vary from the experiences shared in today’s challenge? How does your own social positionality (such as your race, class, gender, sexuality, ability-status) inform your perspectives and reactions to this week’s challenge topic?

  • Do you think experiences with the criminal justice shared in this challenge are systemic issues or personal/isolated experiences? How do the data and studies included here inform your views on that?

  • Are there ideas or recommendations in any of today’s resources that help you better understand your own community? What can you do to learn more about the criminal justice system in your community and how others feel and experience it?
The criminal justice system is a set of legal institutions for enforcing actions deemed illegal under local, state, and federal criminal laws. The institutions that create the law are the local, state and federal governments; law enforcement can include police/sheriff, prosecutor’s offices, courts, prisons, and parole offices.
Embedded in the system is the principle of justice – the idea that people will receive what they deserve without favor towards any one person or groups of people. While we hope that our system of justice is blind and fair, there are many who believe that our justice system has historically not been and is not currently fair. Often, individuals point to disparities in the racial breakdown of who is affected by laws and how they are enforced, as well as the personal accounts that people of color share from their own interactions with the criminal justice system.
Today’s challenge provides data, as well as personal accounts and experiences to explore how race and racism may show up in the criminal justice system and some ways it can be confronted.

Week 17 Challenge
With the questions and definitions above in mind, do at least one of the following:
The Color of Justice (14-minute read)
This article from the Constitutional Rights Foundation to view summaries of research relating to race related disparities in arrests, plea bargaining, jury verdicts, sentencing, and the death penalty. The article also ends with discussion points for further thinking.
Kenosha News: Study Shows Sharply Different Sentencing Outcomes by Race in Three-County Judicial District (7-minute read)
This article shares data from a draft report for the Wisconsin Court System, showing the state’s disparities in sentencing outcomes by race. The article includes perspectives from community members and judges, as well as plans for additional study of the issue.
From Slave Patrols to Today: What the History of Policing Teaches Us About the Present (6:07)
From Slave Patrols to Jim Crow, what can we learn about policing from history? NBCLX storyteller Cody Broadway introduces viewers to an ex-chief of police who has been at the center of the fight towards change for decades.
How Police and the Public can Create Safer Neighborhoods Together (9:41)
We all want to be safe, and our safety is intertwined, says Tracie Keesee, cofounder of the Center for Policing Equity. Sharing lessons she's learned from 25 years as a police officer, Keesee reflects on the public safety challenges faced by both the police and local neighborhoods, especially in the African American community, as well as the opportunities we all have to preserve dignity and guarantee justice. "We must move forward together. There's no more us versus them," Keesee says. (Subtítulos en español disponibles.)
Risha Talks: Overcoming Systemic Racism in Criminal Justice (16:51)
In this interview, individuals share personal accounts of their interaction and experience with the criminal justice system and how they are working to address racism they’ve identified in the system.
Reformed: How Did We Get Here? The History of Mass Incarceration - Part 1 (18:27)
This episode of Reformed: A Criminal Justice podcast explores the causes that led to mass incarceration and the prison state. The episode traces the roots of imprisonment, exploring how illegal drugs, fearmongering within communities, and even national housing policy helped create today's justice system.

Share your reflections or additional resources about today’s topic on social media using #EquityChallenge - or send us a note at unitedway@unitedwayracine.org
Learn more about the Challenge and review weekly topics by visiting
Local Resources
A weekly book discussion group reading books on race and racism.

A yearlong, faith-based series of interactive and multidimensional public events. The series goal is to increase our understanding of how we think and feel about racism, resulting in actions that can help to transform us as individuals and the systems of racism in our country. 

The YWCA of SEW Wisconsin offers a variety of trainings about different facets of equity, such as structural racism, cultural differences, social transformation and more.

Higher Expectations engages community partners, aligns efforts, and maximizes resources to promote excellence and equity in education and employment outcomes in Racine County.
Hear from Deanna Singh, Founder/Chief Change Agent of Flying Elephant and her husband Justin on how to talk to your children about race to help children develop a healthy understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Virtual Panelist Q&A via Zoom with Barb Farrar, Executive Director at The LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin and guest panelists.

Wednesday, June 16 at 6 p.m.

Make your commitment to inclusion—the active, intentional and ongoing engagement with diversity—official by signing our Declaration of Inclusion Pledge. This pledge is to respect and appreciate all aspects of any person, including race, religion, skin color, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, physical abilities, age, parental status, work and behavioral styles, and the perspectives of each individual as shaped by their nation, culture and experiences. You will also receive our quarterly diversity newsletter to build your "equity muscle."