Student Senate discusses incarceration, swears in new senators


UWL Student Association Facebook Page

Julia Balli, General Assignment Reporter

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse Student Senate had their first meeting of the semester.  

The meeting started with guest speaker Lee Rasch, La Crosse’s 2016 Person of the Year and executive director of LeaderEthics-Wisconsin. Rasch discussed LeaderEthics-Wisconsin, a non-partisan and non-profit organization dedicated to promoting integrity in the American Democracy through ethical leadership practices among elected officials. The organization focuses on candidate development for the next generation of politicians and for the move to ethical leadership and change. Anyone is welcome to join, for it is a statewide organization. 

Isaac Tahiri, a sophomore serving on the UWL Student Senate and on the Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee, was also a guest speaker at the Student Senate meeting. Tahiri discussed the recent studies done within the Committee of Judiciary and Law, where they observed the incarceration rates in La Crosse.  

Amongst the study, they found alarming results: La Crosse County has the highest rate of incarcerated African Americans in all of Wisconsin. Many of those incarcerated have charges for possession of drugs. Not only did they observe incarceration rates in the county, but also how these rates connect to the students within the area school districts. Youth in the school system is very much at risk of being entered into the criminal justice system. 

In a separate study recently conducted, researchers at Columbia University’s Justice Lab found Wisconsin’s rate of parole supervision is the highest among neighboring states and greater than the national average. They also found the length of time criminal offenders are on supervision is nearly two times higher than the rest of the nation.  

The committee in La Crosse is working collaboratively with social workers, school districts and the police department to shift their mindset on the criminal justice system to ethics-based decision making. This decision making will promote trust and show responsibility, fairness and care to an individual. Hopes for the future is to establish a better rehabilitation system to get people in the criminal justice system help instead of incarcerating them. It was noted during the meeting that there is not an official report available with statistics of population versus population incarcerated. 

A topic addressed later in the meeting was the vacant seats in the Student Senate, due to many of the Student Senate members having graduated last semester. Eventually, the new senators were appointed: Connor Wears and Abby Hennessy for College of Science & Health, Even Nolan for College of Business Administration, Cameron Neader for School of Arts & Communication, Will Gahnz for At-Large, Rachel Stock for Student Embassy and Cortlyn Kelly for ALANA. All were voted in unanimously by the Senate.