Help End Prison Gerrymandering Prison gerrymandering funnels political power away from urban communities to legislators who have prisons in their (often white, rural) districts. More than a decade ago, the Prison Policy Initiative put numbers on the problem and sparked the movement to end prison gerrymandering.

Can you help us continue the fight? Thank you.

—Peter Wagner, Executive Director

by Peter Wagner, July 23, 2009

Amaris Elliott-Engel blogs about my Tuesday talk at the National Conference of State Legislatures summit on the The Legal Intelligencer Blog: Change is Predicted in Census Prisoner Count.

The 2010 census will be the last to count inmates at their place of incarceration instead of their home communities, an advocate for changing where the U.S. census counts the incarcerated predicted at the National Conference of State Legislatures Tuesday.

But while it is likely too late in the current U.S. Census process to change where prisoners are counted, every state can prevent “prison-based gerrymandering” by omitting prisoners for purposes of legislative districting at the state level, said Peter Wagner of Prison Policy Initiative, an advocacy group based in Northampton, Mass.

Wagner said as long as state officials start now there is enough time for states to take out prisoners from the population data used by elected officials in drawing up legislative districts.

State legislators from Vermont to Wisconsin to Texas all spoke during the conference session in support of adjusting where prisoners are counted.

My talk focused on technical and legal issues involved in state-level changes in how people in prison are counted for redistricting purposes. Also see Amaris Elliott-Engel’s June feature article in The Legal Intelligencer about our Pennsylvania report: Report: Census Prisoner Count Dilutes Urban Political Clout

by Peter Wagner, July 17, 2009

On Tuesday, the delegates to the NAACP’s 100th annual convention approved a resolution calling for an end to prison-based gerrymandering:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP, on principle, decries the enumeration of prisoners as local residents as violation of our nation’s fundamental one person one vote ethos of representational democracy, harkening back to the disgraceful three fifths era of constitutionally sanctioned slavery; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP calls on the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census to enumerate prisoners within census blocks where domiciled at their time of arrest; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that NAACP units call upon their Congressional representatives to effect such a permanent change to the Census Bureau enumeration procedures.

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by Peter Wagner, July 17, 2009

Maine Regional School Unit 13 board member Josiah Wilson is calling for an end to using prison counts to distort the school board’s weighted voting system. He cites the letter [PDF] that Demos and the Prison Policy Initiative sent to the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education, asking her to declare prison-based gerrymandering a violation of the principles of one person one vote.

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by Peter Wagner, July 10, 2009

report cover

The voting power of Philadelphians is diluted on the state level because state and federal prisoners are counted by the U.S. Census Bureau where they are incarcerated, instead of the prisoners’ home communities in which they lived before they were incarcerated, an advocacy group has concluded.

Eight state House of Representatives districts would not meet federal “one-person, one-vote” standards if nonvoting state prisoners did not count as district residents for purposes of drawing up legislative districts, according to an analysis conducted by Prison Policy Initiative, an advocacy group based in Northampton, Mass.

That’s the lead to an excellent article, Report: Census Prisoner Count Dilutes Urban Political Clout, by Amaris Elliott-Engel in The Legal Intelligencer about our newest report Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Pennsylvania.

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