Issues and Initiatives
Driver’s Card and Immigrant Community Initiative
SOC serves an incredibly diverse population, including a Latino population of over 60%. A portion of these residents lack the necessary paperwork to obtain a Wisconsin Driver’s License or State ID. Because of this, many are afraid to report crimes, are unable to purchase automobile insurance, and face numerous other barriers to a healthy, productive life. It is SOC’s position that if a program existed, as it once did, to allow more residents to receive Driver’s Cards and/or other forms of picture identification such as a Municipal ID, it would provide significant public benefit, including improving public safety on our roads and in our communities.
In March of 2016, SOC began hosting forums regarding the status of a State Driver’s Card Program, in collaboration with local elected officials and other community groups. It has since expanded to include other issues relevant to our South Side immigrant communities, including selecting an attorney, “knowing your rights” when coming into contact with law enforcement, and updates on federal legislation regarding United States Immigration Policy, i.e. DACA and DAPA. In August, SOC was honored to welcome the Mexican Consulate for an orientation with the community, and we continue to work together for the benefit of our residents.
Sex Offender Residency Initiative
Nothing is more important in shaping residents’ opinions of their neighborhoods as crime rates and personal safety. Sex crimes are of particular concern to our South Side community.
For years, Milwaukee received more than its share of sex offender placements from State prisons. Often, the offenders did not even live in Milwaukee at the time they committed their crimes. In 2015, State law was amended to make it more difficult to place offenders outside of the municipality where they resided at the time of their crimes, and the Milwaukee Common Council passed an ordinance that severely limited where within the City of Milwaukee the same offenders could be placed.
These law changes, along with a high-profile dispute at a South Side group home where an offender was to be placed with little public warning, led to a situation where residents were confused and upset, and felt their voices were not being heard. In response, SOC convened a public forum in collaboration with the Milwaukee Community Justice Council and numerous elected officials, to both inform residents and give them a chance to be heard.
What was discovered in the end is that the law changes which were meant to protect residents had inadvertently led to a relatively small, but not insignificant, population of homeless offenders who could easily be located in order for them to receive needed services and to protect the public.
The issue of sex offender placement in Milwaukee remains unresolved at present, but SOC made a valuable contribution in informing and giving voice to South Side residents who may otherwise have been left out of the process.
For more information, see the attached documents (below).
Street Prostitution Diversion Program
The South Side is known for many things. Historic churches, beautiful parks, great ethnic restaurants and shops, and a strong housing stock. Parts of the South Side have become known for negative reasons as well. Sadly, one of these is street prostitution. Over the years, law enforcement have chosen to employ a strategy of arresting or ticketing the women involved. This does not solve the problem for the women, law enforcement, or the community.
The truth of the matter is that most women who engage in street prostitution do so not out of their own free will, but out of survival, or worse, as victims of human trafficking. There are no shortage of victims when street prostitution is concerned, but it is our view that the women engage in these activities are most in need of services, not punishments.
It is for this reason that SOC decided to enter into a strategic partnership with the Benedict Center on the “Sisters” and “Women’s Harm Reduction” programs. These innovative programs are designed to keep women from harmful situations while providing them with the help they need to get back on their feet, achieving personal health and financial independence. Both programs also benefit the community by reducing the occurrence of street prostitution and its negative effects on quality of life in our neighborhoods. From the Benedict center’s website:
“Our mission is to work with victims, offenders, and the community to achieve a system of justice that is fair and treats everyone with dignity and respect.”
SOC’s collaboration with the Benedict Center is a perfect example of the kind of creative partnerships that SOC seeks to form throughout the South Side. When existing approaches to long-standing problems prove ineffective, new strategies must be employed.
For more information on this important topic, please see the attached document (below) or contact the Benedict Center directly at: : 414- 347-1774.