Milwaukee Nonprofit Offers Ex-Offenders Support, Resources

The Associated Press

By Grace Connatser, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Caliph Muab'El entered the court system at 15 years old and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, of which 10 were spent in solitary confinement. Since he exited prison in 2010, Muab'El has been a face of the prison reform movement in Wisconsin. Now, he's using his experience to help others get their lives together after prison.

Muab'El is an associate at the Milwaukee Reentry Council, whose new Circles of Support program will create an outlet for previously incarcerated men and women to share their stories as a form of emotional therapy. The circles will also help them find housing and jobs, and meet other essential needs.

"We're going to facilitate the relationship-building process," Muab'El said. "You really have to think about the psychology of a person who's done extended periods of time incarcerated, as well as those who have short stints, because the mindsets are night and day."

The council's goal is to reduce recidivism by 50 percent within the next five years. The program is focusing on Milwaukee neighborhoods with high rates of re-offending, mostly on the North Side. Conor Williams, economic policy analyst at Community Advocates and a member of the council, said he hopes it will rebuild a healthier community.

African-American males have much higher rates of incarceration than white males both nationally and locally. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, 38 percent of all Wisconsin inmates are black, while African-Americans represent 6 percent of the Wisconsin population. On the national level, about 40 percent of the incarcerated population is black, while African-Americans are 13 percent of the U.S. population. Blacks are also jailed five times as often as whites.

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