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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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Justin Levitt explains prison-based gerrymandering

by Peter Wagner, May 23, 2011

I just discovered video of a presentation that Justin Levitt made at the Redrawing the Boundaries: A Midwest Redistricting Discussion in Chicago in October 2009. He explains the problem of prison-based gerrymandering and then leads a detailed discussion with advocates about the strategy and rationale for reform. Although dated, it’s worth watching.

Questions include:

  • How are incarcerated people counted?
  • How are college students and the military counted?
  • Is there any data on how many prisoners–during the census period–return to their home communities, and as a consequence should be counted in their home communities?
  • If a state government elects to alter its prison count, when does that take place?
  • What’s the incentive for someone who benefits from a prison population to demand a census recount?
  • What are the primary effects of counting incarcerated people where they are incarcerated?
  • Does counting incarcerated people differ when it comes to congressional districts–versus state and local districts?

For more with Justin Levitt, see my podcast “Address Unknown” Podcast Episode #1 where we discuss the optimal way to structure a bill to eliminate prison-based gerrymandering.

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