Since the day I learned, as a first year law student, that Wisconsin had the nation’s worst racial disparities in our criminal justice system, I’ve been passionate about reforming our criminal justice system. I worked for the Innocence Project and helped advocate for legislative changes to prevent wrongful convictions. I founded an ACLU chapter and took on racial profiling and discrimination in the wake of 9/11 and skyrocketing bigotry against Muslims.
As a legislator, I took on then-unpopular but important fights for equity and dismantling our racist criminal justice system, like ending prison gerrymandering, standing up for the rights of the accused, and ending mass incarceration. High incarceration rates don’t make our state safer, but they do disproportionately low-income and people of color. Wisconsin incarcerates a higher proportion of our Black men than any other state — and with jails and prisons becoming epicenters for COVID-19 outbreaks, being behind bars could be a death sentence.
Mass incarceration starts with unequal policing. Our nation has seen again and again people killed and brutalized by police officers, especially people of color — and protesters, journalists, and elderly pedestrians shoved, beaten, blinded with rubber bullets across the country. Currently, most police perpetrators of this violence face no consequences. Some do it brazenly, knowing they’re being videotaped.
Police violence is unacceptable. Racist enforcement of our laws is unacceptable. We have the power to stop it if we commit to real cultural and political change. That’s why I’ve put forth detailed plans for how we can reinvest in our communities, reduce racial and income inequality, stop police violence and brutality, and finally end the shame that is mass incarceration.
We mourn the murder of George Floyd, and also the approximately 1,000 other Americans killed each year by the very police officers who are sworn to protect and serve. Black lives matter, and it’s important for white people especially to reflect on our role in perpetuating white supremacy. Our work to repair the harm must include serious policy and budgetary changes to end racial disparities, dismantle racist systems, and invest in communities that have been harmed by these systems.
My family and I have spent a lot of time talking, learning, and reflecting in recent days, but there is always more to do. I invite you to join me in committing to dismantle white supremacy and build a more just and equitable world. As always, I welcome your ideas, questions, and feedback. Just reply to this email or call me at (608) 284-8746.
Yours for equity and true justice,
Kelda Helen Roys