Sumter County Florida should reconsider prison-based gerrymandering

by Peter Wagner, March 3, 2011  

Three weeks ago, I wrote about Sumter County Florida’s plan to engage in prison-based gerrymandering. According to the Daily Commercial those plans are unchanged even though the injustice is becoming clearer:

Even though they’re in his district, [County Commissioner Randy] Mask doesn’t see himself “representing” the inmates at the federal prison.

“I don’t know that I represent them,” Mask said last week. “No one’s called me about a pothole.”

Like Hays, Mask sees no problem with counting prisoners as permanent county residents.

“We’ve always done it that way,” he said.

I sent this letter to the editor yesterday:

Commissioner Mask should reconsider

Dear editor,

Sumter County Commissioner Randy Mask admits he doesn’t really represent the prisoners incarcerated in his district [Prisoners count, March 2]. But he proposes to continue the county’s practice of including the prison population when drawing county commissioner districts. He should reconsider.

The expanded federal prison complex could be about half of a district. Using the 8,000 prisoners as padding in his district will result in drawing his district with only about 8,000 county residents while the other 4 districts have about 16,000 people each.

Does it make sense to give some people twice the access to the County Commission as others just because they happen to live next to a large prison? I don’t think so, and neither do the residents of Florida’s Columbia, Hamilton, Holmes, Gulf and Madison counties or the residents of more than 100 rural counties and municipalities around the country which all refuse to use prison populations when drawing districts.

It’s true that Sumter County didn’t draw its districts as fairly as they could have in the past. But the prison is larger now and the county has new information. It’s time to do something new.

Peter Wagner
Prison Policy Initiative
Easthampton MA

The writer is Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative and the author of Prison-Based Gerrymandering in Florida Counties.

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.

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

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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