California can still curtail prison-based gerrymandering

by Aleks Kajstura, July 18, 2011

Friday, the Prison Policy Initiative and Dēmos presented testimony to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) discussing prison-based gerrymandering and making recommendations on how the Citizens Redistricting
Commission (CRC) can take steps to minimize the impact of prison-based gerrymandering in drawing state legislative districts for California.

In past redistricting cycles, California chose to prioritize population equality so highly that it drew all legislative districts exactly the same size, rather than permitting a small population deviation among legislative districts as most states do. Ironically, without a fix to prison-based gerrymandering, California’s devotion to population equality in redistricting was futile. This problem is illustrated by a cluster of districts drawn after the 2000 Census in the Central Valley: 8.6% of the 30th Assembly district was incarcerated in state prisons, 5.7% of the 20th Congressional district was incarcerated in state prisons, and 4.3% of the 16th Senate district was incarcerated in state prisons. In each of these districts, every group of 91 to 94 people were given as much influence in Sacramento as 100 people from any other district that was not itself padded with large prison populations.

The testimony contains more examples with detailed solutions that are still implementable, even at this late stage of redistricting.

The files mentioned in the testimony can be downloaded here:

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  • May 15, 2018:
    Our Policy Analyst Lucius Couloute will be at the LEDA Summit on Race and Inclusion in Holland, Michigan, presenting his research on the challenges and disadvantages people face when they are released from prison. Tickets are available on LEDA’s website.

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