Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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DA candidates consider race issues, drug laws

Next month, the two candidates for Dane County District Attorney will square off in a heated election that has been revolving around issues of race relations, drug laws and equality in the criminal justice system.

Dane County has been facing a rising number of caseloads and larger budget cuts, along with questions about racial discrimination.

Rick Raemisch and incumbent Brian Blanchard are both vying for the position.

Recent figures show that the percentage of blacks in Dane County jail is significantly higher than the percentage of blacks in the general population, and both candidates have explicitly stated that, if elected, they would address the problem in the next term.

Both candidates recently spoke at a debate sponsored by the Task Force on Money, Education and Prisons, stating that their goals are to treat everyone in the criminal justice system equally, regardless of race.

“Black kids want the same as white kids,” Raemisch said. “Above all, they want opportunity. We need to form coalitions in our community so instead of prison being seen as the first resort, use it as the last resort.”

Blanchard agreed, saying that racial profiling is “intolerable” and that the justice system is designed to offer programs that will keep people out of jail.

“We give help in housing, work, medication,” Blanchard said. “Otherwise, they’ll just be back in the system.”

Another hot topic the two candidates addressed was the complex and stringent marijuana laws that currently exist both inside the city of Madison and in Dane County. Both candidates expressed progressive attitudes towards punishing recreational marijuana use, with Blanchard saying marijuana use shouldn’t even be viewed as a criminal event.

“Should we go after someone for simple possession of marijuana? No. You can be arrested and charged in Dane County, compared to it being an ordinance violation inside the city, and that’s not right. Something like that shouldn’t follow you around forever,” Raemisch said.

But according to Blanchard, while someone can be arrested for possession of marijuana, the local court system will generally not view it as a criminal event, and thus not bring charges against the alleged offender.
Both Blanchard and Raemisch agree that racial discrimination has occurred in the past in Dane County, and law enforcement officials always need to exercise proper judgement.
“I cannot promise you discrimination will end. I can’t promise the ratio (of prisoners) will change in jail,” Blanchard said. “But I can promise we will focus on the ways to make change come about. That is a goal, and it will never end.”

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