WisconsinWeekly: Black infant mortality, $60K for 10 minutes in court, dairy despair, skimpy legal help for poor, deportation looms, few early releases for ill inmates

Black infants die and farmers despair; legal bills for redistricting fight pile up; WI pay for indigent defense hits bottom; few sick inmates get early release and a refugee faces removal

Of note: This week we offer a variety of stories from local, state and national sources that illuminate serious issues facing Wisconsin. The New York Times Magazine examines why so many African-American babies in states including Wisconsin die. The Associated Press discovers that the state paid $60,000 to lawyers for 10 minutes of oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark redistricting case. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports despair and disruption in the dairy industry due to low milk and grain prices. Wisconsin Public Radio finds the state’s $40-an-hour rate for private attorneys representing poor defendants is the lowest in the country. Madison365 profiles a Cambodian refugee, a 33-year resident of the city, who is facing deportation because of a sexual assault for which he has served his time. And the Journal Sentinel finds that most states, including Wisconsin, pay millions a year to hold seriously ill or elderly inmates who could be released.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Andy and Dee J. Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Andy is the executive director and Dee is the managing editor.

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Why America’s black mothers and babies are in a life-or-death crisis

New York Times Magazine — April 11, 2018

In 1850, the United States began keeping records of infant mortality by race. That year, the reported black infant-mortality rate was 340 per 1,000; the white rate was 217 per 1,000. This black-white divide in infant mortality has been a source of both concern and debate for over a century. New York Times magazine examines this divide and finds the answer to the disparity in death rates has everything to do with the lived experience of being a black woman in America.

10 minutes at Supreme Court cost Wisconsin $60K

AP — April 13, 2018

Records obtained through an open records request show that taxpayers paid the law firm of Kirkland and Ellis $60,000 to argue for 10 minutes before the U.S. Supreme Court in the state’s defense of a redistricting lawsuit. The cost wasn’t included in original contracts signed by Republican legislative leaders in February 2017.

As dairy crisis crushes farmers, Wisconsin’s rural identity in jeopardy

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — April 13, 2018

With collapsed prices of milk, grain and other commodities, farmers are losing money no matter how many 16-hour days they put in. Entire communities are falling apart as small farms go under. And with them, a way of life that has defined much of the state for more than a century and a half is disintegrating. Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017, and about 150 have quit milking cows so far this year, putting the total number of milk-cow herds at around 7,600 — down 20 percent from five years ago.

Justice delayed for those who can least afford it?

Wisconsin Public Radio — April 16, 2018

The State Public Defender’s Office pays private attorneys $40 an hour to represent poorer clients who have been charged with crimes — the $40 compensation is the lowest compensation rate in the nation for private attorneys assigned such cases. People who are presumed innocent until proven guilty are sitting in jail for two months or longer because they can’t afford bail while they wait for an attorney.

Family distraught after ICE raid in Madison takes away 67-year-old Cambodian refugee

Madison365 — April 17, 2018

Sophal Chuk, a refugee from Cambodia who has been in Madison for 33 years, was taken away by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last Friday and will potentially be deported to Cambodia. “We feel really empty. It’s like a big, missing piece of a puzzle in our life,” Chuk’s daughter Molly Bennett said. “We have a routine with him coming home and being with his grandchildren and being able to spend family time with us. And now he’s gone. And we have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Release programs for sick and elderly prisoners could save millions. But states rarely use them.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — April 18, 2018

A Wisconsin program that allows elderly and severely ill prisoners to be released early from prison could save state taxpayers millions of dollars a year. But thousands of the state’s elderly prisoners — many of whom prison officials acknowledge pose little or no risk of committing new crimes — aren’t allowed to apply, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found.

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