Joblessness, poverty and incarceration: Community leaders, legislators discuss how to stop the cycle

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Community leaders and state legislators came together on Tuesday, September 16th to talk about crime, joblessness and the quality of life in Milwaukee's central city. The discussion was organized by the NAACP, and it was a frank talk about problems in Milwaukee -- and suggestions on how to deal with those problems.

"We believe it is necessary to change the current state of affairs in Milwaukee," James Hall, the president of Milwaukee's NAACP said.

Joblessness, poverty and incarceration. It's a cycle that often includes violence. Community leaders came together Tuesday to brainstorm solutions.

"The police obviously have a leading role in addressing violent crime in our community. Citizens need to feel that the police are working for their benefit and likewise, the police need to know that citizens are supportive of their efforts," Chris Ahmuty with the ACLU of Wisconsin said.

Some leaders say they're looking forward to a Thursday evening "Town Hall"-type meeting of Milwaukee's Fire and Police Commission. That meeting will discuss two issues: the Red Arrow Park shooting of Dontre Hamilton, and the implantation of body cameras in the Milwaukee Police Department. During the special meeting, members of the community will be offered the opportunity to voice their comments during a shared listening session before the Fire and Police Commission.

Another issue discussed Tuesday that could be discussed again during Thursday's meeting is the lack of jobs in Milwaukee's central city -- with community leaders pointing out that the cycle of joblessness leading to crime, leading folks to prison makes any hope of a job that much more difficult.

"We have got to make sure that if we're going to make this city what it's supposed to be, we've got to do the absurd. We've got to think out of the box. We don't want to see a Bucks arena on Wisconsin Avenue because I'm tired of them replacing everything downtown and on the East Side and the Park East. We need something in the inner city,"

Several legislators attended the meeting to listen to ideas from community leaders and activists -- and others concerned about making Milwaukee a better place to live.

NAACP officials say too often, ideas are shot down with nothing positive to replace them.

Tuesday's discussion focused on the violence we've seen in Milwaukee this summer -- with the group brainstorming ideas to stop the violence -- such as creating an effort with the Department of Corrections to clear up license suspensions so sex offenders can get driver's licenses and jobs. Another idea: Placing more of a focus on mandatory treatment programs for non-violent offenders, as an alternative to prison.

Related stories: