“There are many ways to hijack political power. One of them is to draw state or city legislative districts around large prisons — and pretend that the inmates are legitimate constituents.”—Brent Staples
Is prison gerrymandering new to you?
Welcome! We wrote a guide to the resources on this website.
Progress towards ending prison gerrymandering
The Prison Policy Initiative launched a movement to protect our democracy from the prison industrial complex. And we’re winning:
The national movement against prison gerrymandering began in 2001 when the founders of the Prison Policy Initiative discovered that the sheer size of the prison population was combining with an outdated Census Bureau rule to seriously distort how political decisions are made in this country. We put numbers to the problem and suggested solutions in a series of reports and sparked a national movement.
Since then, we’ve made tremendous progress towards ending prison gerrymandering:
- Nine states passed legislation to end prison-based gerrymandering and count incarcerated people at home for redistricting purposes. Maryland and New York's laws changed the 2011 redistricting, and California, Colorado, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington State's laws will apply to the 2020 redistricting cycle.
New York's law was upheld by the New York Supreme Court, and Maryland's law was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.
- The Census Bureau agreed to publish prison count data earlier than in the past, in order to assist states and counties with reallocating or removing incarcerated populations during the 2010 redistricting process, and for 2020 will release the data even earlier, bundling the prison count with the traditional (PL 94-171) redistricting data.
- Our research and organizing has led hundreds of county and municipal governments across the country to reject the Census Bureau’s prison counts and avoid prison-based gerrymandering.
- We led hundreds of civil rights, voting rights and criminal justice organizations and nearly 100,000 individuals to ask the Census Bureau to end prison gerrymandering before the 2020 Census.
- To support further progress, we released a guide to ending prison gerrymandering for state legislators. A joint effort with SiX, it includes lessons from our previous advocacy, detailed policy recommendations, talking points, and more to guide states introducing and passing legislation.
Don’t miss two of our resources: