LaSalle, Louisiana avoids prison-based gerrymandering

LaSalle Parish, Louisiana, adjusted Census population to avoid prison-based gerrymandering when redistricting last week.

by Aleks Kajstura, March 30, 2011

LaSalle Parish, in Louisiana, just redistricted their local government and School Board. There are two prisons located in the Parish: the LaSalle Correctional Center in Urania and the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena.

According to The Jena Times:

After deducting the number of prisoners counted in the census at the two prisons in the parish – LaSalle Correctional Center in Urania and LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena – the remaining population to be used for reapportionment purposes was 13,921. When that number is divided by 10 – the number of districts in the parish – it reveals the ideal number of residents for each ward should be 1,392. However, reapportionment rules allow that districts may be 5 percent lower or higher than that figure to be acceptable. That placed the acceptable number of citizens for each district between 1,320 and 1,458.

If the prison population had been left in the redistricting data, Districts 3 and 7 would have had disproportionate representation in LaSalle government.

District 3 would have claimed the Correctional Center’s population as 38.7% of the district, giving every 61 actual residents the same say in government as 100 residents in the other districts that did not have a prison. District 7 would have been 28.6% incarcerated giving them a smaller, but still significant advantage of needing 71 actual residents for every 100 living elsewhere.

LaSalle joins over 100 local governments across the nation have taken the initiative to correct the problem themselves by manually adjusting flawed Census data. By the end of May, the Census Bureau will publish additional data to make the process even easier for governments who are still in the process of redistricting.

The final numbers for LaSalle were reported as:

District One, 1,297; District Two, 1,385; District Three, 1939, less the number of prisoners at LCC, leaving 1,361; District Four, 1,449; District Five, 1,555; District Six, 1,344; District Seven, 1,850, less the number of prisoners at LDF, leaving 1,423; District Eight, 1,388; District Nine, 1,387; and District Ten, 1,332.

2 responses:

  1. Mike says:

    Fixing prison gerrymandering is a good idea. How about juveniles who are located outside their districts? I read your article about New York State law changes, but it seems to mention the Dept. of Corrections only, and this does not include juveniles incarcerated throughout the state in facilities run by the Office of Children and Family Services.

    1. Peter Wagner says:

      Hi Mike,

      The NY bill does not count kids at home. They had to start somewhere, and the adult system was a known quantity in terms of their recording keeping data systems. Kids in detention should be counted at home; but at least thankfully the number of kids being moved around in New York is far smaller and therefore less disruptive to districting than for adults.

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