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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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The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement objects to being counted in the wrong jurisdictions

by Alison Walsh, July 27, 2016

In their 2015 response (Word) to the Census Bureau’s request for comments on the proposed Residence Rule and Residence Situations, the members of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement powerfully draw upon their firsthand experience as unwilling participants in prison gerrymandering. President Dorsey Nunn writes, “Most, if not all, of us were at one time counted as parts of jurisdictions where we did not live…The political leadership where we were held against our will often drew their power from our presence.”

They argue that the reality of prison gerrymandering runs counter to the democratic ideal of equal representation:

We consider it nothing short of perverse that our bodies are used to over-inflate the population of a prison jurisdiction. The entire point of apportionment is for representation of an equal number of people by elected leaders. Without representation, there is no point in apportionment and no purpose to the U.S. Census Bureau other than a collection of demographic figures. As previously stated, the “representation” an incarcerated person receives from their unelected leader is inverted to their interests.

For the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement, being used to artificially inflate population counts for the benefit of leaders who do not represent their interests is one of the ways in which “state and federal governments have stripped our American citizenship away.”

The Census Bureau is accepting comments through September 1 on their proposal to continue to count incarcerated people in the wrong location.

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