Prof. Karlan: Underpopulated rural districts use prisoners as “inert ballast” to gain population

by Peter Wagner, December 27, 2003  

Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School has a great new article about felon disenfranchisement that discusses the census issue:

The year 2000 involved another event that highlighted the racially salient political consequences of the war on crime and its attendant disenfranchisement of large numbers of minority citizens. Under the “usual residence rule,” the Census Bureau counts incarcerated individuals as residents of the jurisdiction in which they are incarcerated. In many states, this results in largely white, rural communities having their population totals increased at the expense of the heavily urban, overwhelmingly minority communities from which most inmates come. This reallocation of population has at least two important effects. First, because a substantial amount of federal and state aid to localities is based on population, heavily minority communities lose revenue: Chicago, for example, stands to lose $88 million over the next decade because roughly 26,000 Chicagoans, 78 percent of them black, were serving time in downstate prisons at the time of the 2000 census. Second, because electoral districts are also based on population, people in prison serve as essentially inert ballast in the redistricting process. They enable the underpopulation of rural, overwhelmingly white districts relative to urban, heavily minority ones, thereby potentially changing the overall composition of legislative bodies. For example, in New York State, seven conservative upstate Republicans represent state senatorial districts that comply with one-person, onevote only because incarcerated prisoners are included within the population base. But these officials are neither descriptively nor substantively “representative” of their inmate “constituents.” As a result, many commentators have compared the inclusion of incarcerated inmates in the population base of the jurisdictions where they are incarcerated to the notorious “three fifhs” clause in the original Constitution, which enhanced the political clout of slave-holding states by including slaves in the population base for calculating congressional seats and electoral votes.

Pamela S. Karlan, Convictions and doubts: Retribution, representation, and the debate over felon disenfranchisement (Internal citations omitted) Stanford Law School

Meet us

  • Jan 25-27, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be in Charlotte, North Carolina for meetings about redistricting and ending prison gerrymandering. Contact us if you’d like to meet up.
  • February 5, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be in New York for the reception of the exhibition, Prison Obscura, curated by Prison Photography editor Pete Brook. The exhibition includes Prison Map by Josh Begley and Proliferation by Paul Rucker, both of which rely on Prison Policy Initiative data to show the scale of mass incarceration. The event will be held at Parsons School of Design from 6:30-8:30pm and a Curator’s Talk by Pete Brooks at 5:45pm.
  • February 6, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be at Yale for a panel presentation at the Equality Re-Imagined Conference.
  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.
  • February 24, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be speaking to the American Constitution Society Chapter at UConn School of Law at 12:30pm. Topics will include mass incarceration, prison gerrymandering, sentencing enhancement zones and more.

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Events

  • Jan 25-27, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be in Charlotte, North Carolina for meetings about redistricting and ending prison gerrymandering. Contact us if you’d like to meet up.
  • February 5, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be in New York for the reception of the exhibition, Prison Obscura, curated by Prison Photography editor Pete Brook. The exhibition includes Prison Map by Josh Begley and Proliferation by Paul Rucker, both of which rely on Prison Policy Initiative data to show the scale of mass incarceration. The event will be held at Parsons School of Design from 6:30-8:30pm and a Curator’s Talk by Pete Brooks at 5:45pm.
  • February 6, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be at Yale for a panel presentation at the Equality Re-Imagined Conference.
  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.
  • February 24, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be speaking to the American Constitution Society Chapter at UConn School of Law at 12:30pm. Topics will include mass incarceration, prison gerrymandering, sentencing enhancement zones and more.

Not near you?
Invite us to your city, college or organization.

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