Amani Latimer Burris Is Running for the Wisconsin State Senate
District 26 Seat
Living the Issues
|State Senate Candidate Amani Latimer Burris outside her
campaign RV, which she has used to campaign in the
neighborhoods of the District 26 Senate Seat.
remainder of his life. While his condition was always viewed as a criminal matter — and aspects of it were — there was more going on there.
“I realize that as an adult being able to speak about it, he had a drug addiction,” Latimer Burris said. “He had health issues and then he was driven by the economic
system to make a buck and it turned into something else. But that never got addressed. We’re not addressing it and then we are spending a lot of money trying to
punish it. I’ll do a tale of two citizens. I have one friend who is a lot like my brother. He has a drug addiction and has some mental health issues. And he goes to
treatment because his family can afford to send him to treatment and they look at him differently because he is a white guy. With Trooper, we didn’t say, ‘We have
mental health issues and we have addiction.’ We are supposed to be different than that. And so my friend it took him eight times going through treatment before he
was 35-years-old before he finally got off the drugs. And my brother will spend the rest of his life in prison on and off. You do something and then you pay for it with
your life. And he has paid for it with his life.”
And there are other measures that keep people within the system and could be considered overkill in terms of punishment.
“When you are pulled in on a probation hold, you can actually sit in jail for a very long time,” Latimer Burris said. “You can be on a probation hold indefinitely. As a
matter of fact, I had to dig down on this issue for someone else. And I found out there was a case where someone was on a probation hold for five years. That was
In Latimer Burris’ view, the criminal justice system is broken and distorting the lives of many people and not just those behind bars.
“People are being in jail accused of something and because they cannot afford to pay the bail and the judge is requiring that they have representation and there aren’
t enough public defenders to come and help them, they have to just sit in jail,” Latimer Burris emphasized. “I think that goes against what we see as our
constitutional right. That’s how the system works and that is how the court system is adding to it. It’s easier to make someone not a human being, but a number.
People at the court system know it. The people that are arresting people and being the bailiffs know it and want change. And the people are affected by it, the
families, want change.”
And the citizenry of Wisconsin would be demanding change if they knew how much it was affecting their pocketbooks.
“I added it up what it has cost to incarcerate my brother — he admitted to the crimes most definitely, but he didn’t murder anyone — and it costs about $1.5 million
just for him,” Latimer Burris emphasized. “That’s crazy. We take the time that he has been incarcerated and what it costs for him to go through the court system and
we were in a 30-year-period and now we are headed into a 40-year-period because he is 60-years-old, that is a lot of time and money. I started looking at it on the
level of everyone is getting paid in that court system whenever he makes
an appearance. There have to be so many people in the room to make an
appearance. And how many appearances do you have? And then there is
the cost of keeping him in jail and giving him transportation and then
keeping him in prison and then the probation and parole. We’re just
spending an enormous amount of money on one person. And I know it’s a
long period of time, but wouldn’t it be cheaper to just go through drug
treatment eight times? I think that would be cheaper, I think. But the problem
is because we have demonized people and taken them out of the human
element that we all live in — we all have our issues — it’s easy to make it
into a talking point that Amani wants criminals running around in the streets
getting treatment. That’s not what I said. I said, ‘If you look at it, it’s not
working.’ If you analyze it and look at the data, it’s very instructive and it’s
not working. And it is very expensive and it’s not working and at the end of
the day, my brother will come out and now he will be like 70-years-old.”
At the top of Latimer Burris’ agenda would be implementing better measures
to combat COVID-19 in the immediate and the equity of healthcare in the
“We’ve got to get testing, testing and more testing,” Latimer Burris
emphasized. “What they have done right specifically in Dane County is to
make the access available and not only make it accessible physically, but
also the cost accessible as well. And then as soon as you realize a
problem, ‘It’s not accessible to this group,’ then you correct it. That’s what
policy should be about. That’s what legislation should be about. It should be
about how to make people’s lives better and make life easier for everyday
people. And so with COVID-19, we need to make sure we have this
protective gear, and make sure that people get tested. we have a very
small window right now where health care is at the top of the issues. You
don’t have to talk to anyone about should people be covered under COVID-
19 or not. We have to try and get it done. I understand that it is at the federal
level for a lot of it. But we can advocate to accept funds and do whatever
we need to do to cover every day people.”
Finally, Latimer Burris feels that the time is now to do something about race
relations in this country, which is a long haul process.
“We could actually become a model for the whole country if we just hit it
straight on,” Latimer Burris said. “And we had those difficult conversations.
And we got down into the weeds over time. If we do this all during our
tenure, we might actually get somewhere.”
Whether Latimer Burris wins or loses, she has placed her finger on the
pulse of the community and expressed community concerns in a way that
every day people can understand.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
In many ways, Amani Latimer Burris, the daughter of the late UMOJA publisher Milele Chikasa
Anana, has lived many of the issues facing the Wisconsin Senate’s 26th district.
Burris earned a communications degree from UW-B=Green Bay and became a journalist. Eventually
she got married and had two children with her husband Richard Burris who is a public defender.
They invested in real estate at the height of the boom. And then the Great Recession hit and they
lost everything, exposing Latimer Burris and her family to the cruelty of the economic downturn
while others were protected.
The same holds true of the criminal justice system. Latimer Burris’ brother has been going in and
out of the criminal justice system for 30 years now and possibly will remain within it for the