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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.

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

Valley Advocate profiles our work

by Peter Wagner, April 9, 2010

Maureen Turner at The Valley Advocate has written an excellent profile of our work:

newsthumbJail and the Census: A Change That Counts, Easthampton’s Prison Policy Initiative scores a victory for fair political representation

I particularly liked how she explained the significance of the Census Bureau’s decision to publish prison counts earlier:

That might not sound like much — a government agency releasing a relatively small amount of its collected data a little earlier than usual. But the consequences will be significant, making it easier for states to ensure that their legislative districts are fair representations of actual populations.

And it wasn’t just those residents who were poorly served by the formula. Because the prisoners were not counted at the homes where they lived before their arrest — and where, it can be assumed, many would return upon their release — those communities also suffered, as their population count, for the purpose of distributing political representation, shrank.

While in an ideal world, Wagner said, the Census would have made a much broader chang e– to counting prisoners at their previous home addresses — such a policy would have had to be created years ago to be ready for the 2010 count. The early release of data, while not a complete fix, is still a welcomed one, he said: “It will solve a lot of people’s problems, and there was still time to do it.”

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