The American criminal justice system is based on the premise that all defendants are treated equally in the eyes of the law. However, this is disproportionately not the case for far too many African-Americans.
Compared to whites, Black Americans are more likely to be arrested and more likely to serve longer prison sentences. Nowhere in the United States are these racial disparities in the criminal justice system more pronounced than in Wisconsin, a state that locks up 1 in 8 Black men — a rate of mass incarceration double the national average. In Milwaukee, 50 percent of the black men in the city have spent time in jail.
These startling statistics aren't news to members of Milwaukee's Hephatha Church, located in the city's North Side. Everyone in this largely African-American neighborhood knows someone who is either in prison or has served time.
The perspective and experiences of those in this neighborhood suggests the justice system is stacked against them, a view shared by the city's district attorney, John Chisholm. Dismayed by the experiences of African-Americans in the justice system in his city and state several years ago, Chisholm opened his books to researchers at the Vera Institute. These researchers compared the outcome of cases involving white and Black defendants in Milwaukee charged with similar crimes. The data exposed the degree to which race appears to play a significant factor at nearly every stage of criminal prosecution — from the decision to prosecute to the severity of charges, terms of plea deals and sentencing. Similar data has revealed similar patterns in other cities, including New York.
This compelling and uncompromising film will expose the inner workings of a criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts African-American lives, families and communities in Milwaukee and beyond. The film will air on November 7 at 9P/8C.
Shoshana Guy is an award-winning long-form television news producer. Currently a senior producer at NBC News, her work covers a broad range of issues, including criminal justice, poverty, race, military lives and foreign affairs. Shoshana has worked as the lead producer for NBC News anchors Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw and her piece "Tom Brokaw Reports: Separate and Unequal," about race and poverty in America, was nominated for a 2007 Emmy for best News Magazine Feature and won the 2007 RTNDA-UNITY award. Her most recent work for Brian Williams includes "Inside the Situation Room," with President Obama, "One on One," filmed on the campaign trail with President Obama, and "A City Invincible," a look at the poverty and violence in Camden, New Jersey. Shoshana has worked in the U.S., Canada, Haiti, Mexico, Cuba, South America, Southeast Asia and Africa. She is based in Brooklyn, New York.