As a non-profit, Racine Women for Racial Justice is a non-political organization and, as such, we cannot make endorsements or give recommendations as to which candidates to vote for. However, we strongly encourage all of you -- our supporters -- to exercise your right to vote and to educate yourself about the issues that affect each election.
In the election on April 4, Wisconsin voters will encounter three statewide referendum questions. Two of the questions are binding and pertain to changes in the cash bail system. This article from Wisconsin Public Radio does a good job of explaining the background behind these questions and the possible consequences if the bail-related referendums pass.
As an organization that is working to alleviate systemic injustices in our judicial system, particularly as they pertain to people of color and people in poverty, RWRJ is concerned about any rule or law changes that encourage judges to set higher bail amounts. Currently, the system in Wisconsin creates a situation in which people without the means to afford bail must wait in jail for their cases to be adjudicated. In some cases, this can take years. People who are incarcerated while awaiting trial can lose their jobs, homes and families, not to mention that being in jail drastically hinders their ability to advocate for themselves while preparing for trial. Sadly, this system encourages defendants (who may very well be innocent) to accept plea deals just to be able to move forward with their lives.
While we, of course, do not want to see violent criminals reoffend while out on bail, the fact is that the vast majority of those languishing in jail are non-violent offenders who simply cannot afford bail. We are concerned that a few high profile cases have led to these referendums which could result in an over correction that will force judges to increase bail amounts that will disproportionately affect the poor.
We encourage you to take the time to read the article linked above and do your own research on this important issue.