Senator Harris Dodd announces Racial Impact Statement Bill

May 7, 2015
Nikiya Harris Dodd

On Tuesday, May 5, 2015, Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd (D-Milwaukee) circulated a bill for co-sponsorship that would require the use of racial impact statements in Wisconsin’s criminal lawmaking. Currently, Wisconsin leads the nation in the number of African American and Native American males that are incarcerated. “For years, we have been passing criminal laws without taking time to examine the damaging effect that those laws could have on our communities,” Senator Harris Dodd explained. “Racial impact statements will provide legislators with accurate and relevant data to ensure that the policies that we pass are a result of informed decisionmaking.” Senator Harris Dodd’s bill would require a racial impact statement to accompany every bill that either creates or modifies a crime or criminal penalty. Drafted by the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties, the statement would indicate whether the proposed criminal legislation disproportionately and adversely impacts minority populations. “Every week, my office receives phone calls from the loved ones of those incarcerated in our prison system. We know that many of these individuals committed nonviolent crimes and yet are locked up for years at a time, without any hope of release,” stated Senator Harris Dodd. “That is why I am introduc- ing this important bill, which will help curb some of the in- justices in our criminal justice system. We should be ensur- ing that we are rehabilitating offenders who are nonvio- lent, rather than needlessly locking them behind bars.” If passed, Wisconsin would be the fourth state to require racial impact state- ments in criminal lawmak- ing. In response to growing racial disparities in incarcera- tion, Iowa, Connecticut, and Oregon have all passed laws that require the use of racial impact statements. Several states, including Mississippi and Maryland, have consid- ered doing the same.