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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.

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“Change is Predicted in Census Prisoner Count”

by Peter Wagner, July 23, 2009

Amaris Elliott-Engel blogs about my Tuesday talk at the National Conference of State Legislatures summit on the The Legal Intelligencer Blog: Change is Predicted in Census Prisoner Count.

The 2010 census will be the last to count inmates at their place of incarceration instead of their home communities, an advocate for changing where the U.S. census counts the incarcerated predicted at the National Conference of State Legislatures Tuesday.

But while it is likely too late in the current U.S. Census process to change where prisoners are counted, every state can prevent “prison-based gerrymandering” by omitting prisoners for purposes of legislative districting at the state level, said Peter Wagner of Prison Policy Initiative, an advocacy group based in Northampton, Mass.

Wagner said as long as state officials start now there is enough time for states to take out prisoners from the population data used by elected officials in drawing up legislative districts.

State legislators from Vermont to Wisconsin to Texas all spoke during the conference session in support of adjusting where prisoners are counted.

My talk focused on technical and legal issues involved in state-level changes in how people in prison are counted for redistricting purposes. Also see Amaris Elliott-Engel’s June feature article in The Legal Intelligencer about our Pennsylvania report: Report: Census Prisoner Count Dilutes Urban Political Clout

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