For many people, the state of Wisconsin conjures images of beer, brats,
cheese, football and cold weather. Located in the north-central United
States, Wisconsin boasts a rich Native American history as well as
settlement by the French.
The first record of discovery in this area was by Frenchman Jacques
Marquette, who discovered the Wisconsin River in 1673. Marquette found
that the land had already been inhabited by the Algonquian Indians.
In 1845 the area became a territory and was officially named Wisconsin.
The name itself has been the source of some confusion, as there
continue to be disagreements about its origin and meaning. It may come
from an Algonquian word meaning "long river," or a
Chippewa/Opjibwa/Anishinabe word meaning "grassy place" or "gathering
Wisconsin is made up of 72 counties, with many of those county names
reflecting the Native American history of the state. Manitowoc,
Outagamie and Chippewa counties are only a few of those whose labels
were influenced by these deep roots. The capital city is Madison, which
joins Milwaukee and Green Bay as the three largest cities in the state.
The Green Bay Packers are the most recent claim to fame for this
state, due to their winning of Super Bowl XLV in February 2011. The
state is known for having many rivers and streams, which are so
numerous that if stretched from end to end, would span 26,767 miles.
That distance is more than enough to completely circle the globe at the
As images of football and cheese run through your head, you may be
surprised to learn about a concerning trend that has been happening in
Wisconsin for over a decade. Although the state incarceration rate is
lower than that of the U.S. (369 people per 100,000 vs. a national
average of 502), the state has the highest rate of African American
imprisonment in the country.
Blacks are taken into custody at a rate ten times greater than their
fellow white residents. Additionally, the number of incarcerated blacks
is highly disproportionate to the number of African-American residents.
These statistics are currently a hot topic in Wisconsin, and there are
many opinions as to the underlying reasons. For all the races combined,
the average length of stay in jail in Wisconsin is 19.3 days.
Many states allow for expungement of certain criminal records, which
means the crime is removed from the record of an individual as if it
had never been there. Wisconsin does not allow for expungement, but
instead allows for certain records to be sealed from public view.
Records that qualify for this sealing normally involve an individual
who was a Juvenile Offender and successfully completed their probation.
Felony and sexual offenders are typically precluded from having their
Until recently it was illegal to carry a gun in the state of Wisconsin
whether it was concealed or not. In July 2011, Governor Scott Walker
signed a concealed weapon bill, and Wisconsin became the 49th state in
the U.S. to lift the former ban.