National Organization Hosts Groundbreaking Leadership Training for Formerly Incarcerated Milwaukeeans While Prison Closure Campaign Continues to Gain Momentum in Milwaukee

By Mark Rice, Milwaukee Campaign Coordinator, JustLeadershipUSA

JustLeadershipUSA is a national, criminal justice reform, nonprofit organization that aims to cut the United States correctional population in half by 2030 by empowering those most impacted by mass incarceration to drive policy reform. JustLeadershipUSA held its groundbreaking Emerging Leaders training at Milwaukee Area Technical College in April 2018. This is the twelfth Emerging Leaders training that JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) has held across the country, and 150 men and women have graduated from the training. The training itself is an abridged version of JLUSA’s Leading with Conviction program, which is an intensive, year-long program, currently in its fourth year, that trains formerly incarcerated men and women to amplify their leadership in criminal justice reform.

Additionally, JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) has partnered with or helped build advocacy campaigns across the country, including their local effort: the #CLOSEmsdf campaign led by Community Coordinator Mark Rice. Rice is a graduate of the 2017 Leading with Conviction cohort and has led the #CLOSEmsdf campaign since its launch last June. Demanding the immediate closure of the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, the campaign has garnered significant support, most recently evidenced by the resolution from Milwaukee County Supervisor Peggy West demanding an end to policies that have created or fueled mass incarceration.

MKE 53206 zip code, 95 percent Black, has highest incarceration rate in USA
“Wisconsin’s penal policies are out of step with our widely shared values of equity, justice, and fairness,” said Rice. “No city in the nation has been devastated by mass incarceration to a greater extent than Milwaukee. The city’s 53206 zip code, which is 95 percent Black, has the highest incarceration rate in the country. More than half of all African American men in their 30s and early-40s in Milwaukee County have been incarcerated in state prisons. Instead of wasting resources to incarcerate people from Milwaukee at extraordinarily high rates, Wisconsin should redirect resources to provide opportunities that will help people and communities reach their full potential.”

As with each of JLUSA’s advocacy campaigns, the Emerging Leaders and Leading with Conviction programs play a pivotal role in building and strengthening local support. Alumni from Leading with Conviction now lead JLUSA campaigns in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and South Carolina.

Working with its partners on the ground, JLUSA has recruited directly impacted people who have demonstrated leadership potential in the field of criminal justice reform to undergo its groundbreaking leadership model that was developed with the partnership of the Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia University.

In Emerging Leaders, participants learn to apply three key practices to their work: responsibility, self-reflection/feedback, and creating collective leadership. The trainings benefit leaders by introducing them to other people, campaigns, and practices closely linked to successful criminal justice advocacy efforts – a networking component that enables them to take on greater challenges, implement their visions for reform, and generate quantifiable impact in their work.

Mark Rice is a prime example of the power of this training model and seeks to continue expanding its value and reach. “Investing in the leadership of directly impacted people will play a central role in reversing the harmful practice of prioritizing criminalization and dehumanization over families, communities, and public health,” said Rice. “Investing adequately in programs that elevate the leadership of directly impacted people will enable them to thrive and contribute to building the type of strong, safe, and healthy communities that people in Milwaukee deserve.”

The Emerging Leaders training was sponsored by several prominent organizations, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, the Milwaukee Area Technical College, the ACLU of Wisconsin, WISDOM, EXPO, the Safer Foundation, the Jane Adams College of Social Work, and Project RETURN.

Wisconsin Gubernatorial Candidates Forum at 6:00pm June 11, 2018
Looking ahead, Rice said he is “excited and motivated” by #CLOSEmsdf’s growing momentum. On June 11, the campaign will help support a Wisconsin Gubernatorial Candidates Forum at 6:00pm at the Country Springs Hotel and Convention Center. On June 28, the #CLOSEmsdf campaign will celebrate its one year anniversary at 6:30pm at the Hephatha Lutheran Church.

​Together, we can redefine JUSTICE. Become a JustLeadershipUSA (#JLUSA) member ​today ​for only $1 per month to help us achieve #halfby2030.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on April 28, 2018

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