I need your help. Prison gerrymandering gives extra political power to legislators who have prisons in their districts. We put numbers on the problem and sparked a movement to protect our democratic process from the overgrown prison system.

Can you help us continue the fight? All gifts made this year will be automatically matched by other donors. Thank you.

Peter Wagner, Executive DirectorDonate

Buying the prisoner count in Minnesota

by Peter Wagner, September 1, 2003

“On April Fool’s Day this year state prison wardens gave more than 5,600 inmates time off from their hourly-wage jobs to fill out their census forms. The wardens know how many inmates they have, of course, but only the prisoners know the answers to the more detailed questions posed in the national headcount. So each inmate who cooperated was paid $1…

“A dollar may not sound like much of an incentive, but prison wages are often less than 75 cents an hour….

“The census, as Minnesotans were repeatedly reminded last spring, means money for basic services. The detailed demographic information people offer up on their census forms every ten years translates into federal dollars to help their communities pay for everything from affordable housing to road repair. Prisoners, however, don’t get counted as residents of their former neighborhoods. Instead, the census adds them to the populations of the communities where they are serving time.

See: Prison Math by Meleah Maynard in City Pages, October 25, 2000.

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