On January 4th, former talk show host Montel Williams was detained and cited at the Milwaukee airport by Milwaukee County Sheriffs for possession of a wooden pipe.
Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 and has since been a public supporter of the use of medical marijuana to relieve chronic pain. He was visiting Wisconsin to participate in an experimental brain treatment program for those suffering from MS, Parkinson’s disease and other brain afflictions when a TSA employee noticed the pipe and called for backup. He was detained by Milwaukee sheriffs while the pipe was examined and eventually determined not to contain marijuana residue. Williams paid a $400 fine and was released with a February 2 court date.
Williams' arrest is merely the most public example of a troubling, wasteful epidemic of non-violent drug arrests in Milwaukee and Wisonsin—an epidemic that falls heavily on the backs of the state’s African-American population.
African-Americans in Wisconsin are among the most likely to be locked up in the nation and arrests for non-violent drug offenses have skyrocketed in the state in recent years.
Instead of arresting scores of African-American drug offenders, Milwaukee and Wisconsin should be investing in alternatives to incarceration and substance abuse treatment, both of which are more effective and less costly than locking up minor drug offenders.
Let's make Montel Williams' detention the starting point for a conversation around wasteful, racialized non-violent drug arrests in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. Let's tell Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to drop the charges against Montel Williams!