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The national movement against prison gerrymandering began 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founders of the Prison Policy Initiative discovered that the sheer size of the prison population was combining with an outdated Census Bureau rule to seriously distort how political decisions are made in this country. In a series of reports about the 2000 Census, we put numbers on the problem of prison-based gerrymandering, suggested solutions, and sparked a national movement.
Since then, we’ve made tremendous progress towards ending prison gerrymandering:
“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
The clearest example of prison gerrymandering comes from the City of Anamosa, Iowa where a large prison was almost an entire city council district. Council districts are supposed to contain the same number of people, but basing districts on non-voting non-resident prison populations gives a handful of residents the same political power as thousands of residents elsewhere in the city.
50 State Guide to Fixing Prison-Based Gerrymandering
by Peter Wagner, Aleks Kajstura, Elena Lavarreda, Christian de Ocejo, and Sheila Vennell O'Rourke
Preventing prison-based gerrymandering in redistricting: What to watch for
by Peter Wagner (Prison Policy Initiative) and Brenda Wright (Dēmos)