Criminal justice and social work professors from UWM’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare are taking their research directly to the public through regular appearances on WUWM, Milwaukee’s public radio station.
As part of his series on the station’s “Lake Effect,” social work professor David Pate provides an outlet for discussion about debt and racial wealth disparity in Milwaukee. In each segment of “Real Talk,” Pate explains why black men in Milwaukee often can’t get out of poverty. The compounding interplay of joblessness, incarceration and neighborhood location contribute to cyclical poverty; however, Pate found that it’s child-support debt that plays a major underlying role.
Pate researches how national and state policies affect the daily lives of black men living in poverty. He calls child-support debt inescapable and believes U.S. policies set up these men for failure. Child-support debt accrues interest even when someone is incarcerated for not paying. “This debt has certain sanctions attached to it, from having your license taken to being incarcerated,” Pate said.
Incarcerating an individual for debt carries implications for the individual, his family and the community. Men in their prime working years lose their power to earn money and contribute to society. Once they’re out of jail, finding a job becomes nearly impossible because of their record. “When they don’t have a job and they have this child-support debt that accumulates, it gets to be a significant debt for them,” Pate said.
In the segment “Location Is a Big Factor in the Wealth Gap,” Pate explains how debt perpetuates segregation and poverty in Milwaukee. “Instead of using money to get ahead, the community is stuck carrying a disproportionate amount of debt and unable to build its collective wealth,” Pate said. “I see a lot of men who want to do good things for their families, but based on previous choices, they can’t move further. It becomes more of a burden for everybody.”
Listen to “Real Talk” on Lake Effect: wuwm.com/people/david-pate.
Associate professors of criminal justice Tina Freiburger and Steve Brandl contribute additional monthly essays to “Lake Effect.” The segments give listeners an expert’s insight into understanding current criminal justice topics.
Brandl’s most recent essay was “Homicide in Milwaukee: fact and fiction.” Another scheduled to air is “History of horrible homicides in Milwaukee.”
Freiburger’s essay, “What does innocent till proven guilty mean?” aired in June.
Listen to the “Crime and Justice” series on Lake Effect: wuwm.com/programs/lake-effect.