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Listen MKE - Youth Incarceration

Streamed live on Jun 11, 2022 

This program is made possible by the generous support of Wellpoint Care Network and the O'Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism. It's also sponsored by Listen MKE, a partnership between the Ideas Lab at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; WUWM 89.7-FM, Milwaukee's NPR; Milwaukee PBS; and the Milwaukee Public Library.


Wisconsin imprisons a lot of Black men, and reentering society after spending years behind bars is a major challenge for many. 

That was just one of the many messages in James E. Causey’s recent report: “Life Correction: The Marlin Dixon Story” about how a 32-year-old man involved in a sensational crime years ago is trying to put his life back together. Causey was joined by Dixon; Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm; Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley; Sharlen Moore, Co-found of Urban Underground and Milwaukee’s poet laureate Mario Willis. 

Tessa Duvall, an investigative reporter for the Louisville Courier Journal, provided the keynote address. Duvall is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and a Peabody winner for her work examining the role of childhood trauma in teen murders. 

Ideas to help solve the problem of youth violence

As part of our event June 11, we held a series of small groups discussions aimed at exploring solutions to youth violence, trauma and overincarceration. Here are some of the short-term and long-term ideas local residents came up with.

Short term:

  • The state Department of Corrections should offer more mental health treatment and therapy.
  • Churches need to be more involved, possibly having mentors work with specific schools.
  • A social media and advertising campaign should highlight positive youths.
  • Earn and Learn, a summer youth employment program, should be expanded to more ZIP codes so it can include more youth. And overall, more businesses should take on additional youths during the summer.
  • Milwaukee Public Schools needs to hire more Black and Hispanic male teachers. And in general, teachers and educators need more suppport. Too many people seem bias against teachers and the critical work they do.
  • All of us need to keep planting seeds, keep coming up with solutions, and keep holding our politicians accountable.
  • More people need to be registered to vote.
  • Violence needs to be stop being normalized.
  • Stories like those of Marlin Dixon and David Crowley should continue to be shared.

 Long term:

  • In the words of Sharlen Moore of Urban Underground, the laws at the state level need to change in order to lower extended supervision for people facing more than a decade "on paper."
  • Neighborhood block watches need to be strengthened to curb (youth) crime.
  • All city and county employees should be required to take the YWCA’s "Unlearning Racism" course.
  • MPS should teach empathy and conflict resolution.
  • Felons should be allowed to vote.
  • The court system should be made more diverse, from the district attorney's office to jurors.
  • Politicians who only see things one way should be voted out.
  • Restorative justice practices need to be nourished and expanded.