Historian and PPI board member Heather Thompson gave an overview of how prison gerrymandering distorts Pennsylvania democracy, and showed the graphic from our brand new report "Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie."

by Peter Wagner, April 9, 2014

Last night, I attended a fascinating panel at Yale, “Incarceration in America: Past and Present: A panel with Three Leading Scholars.” Presenting were
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, NYPL Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Caleb Smith, Professor of English, Yale University and Prison Policy Initiative board member Heather Ann Thompson, Associate Professor of History, Temple University.

The Moderator was David Blight, Director of Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.

The event’s summary:

The three scholars [discussed] the history and impact of incarceration in the US — from imprisonment and ideas about prisons in the 19th Century, to the increasing connections between race, social science and criminality in the early 20th Century, to late 20th and 21st Century mass incarceration.

And here, Heather used our new briefing, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie:

Heather Thompson presenting

In her talk, Heather also used a map from our report on prison gerrymandering in Pennsylvania and received a lot of shocked and outraged responses from the moderator and the audience about how the Census Bureau’s prison count distorts democracy.

I should have shared them with Heather before the talk, but we’ve also produced some maps illustrating our research in Connecticut that weren’t included in our 2013 report:

Nine CT House districts meet minimum population requirements only because they include prison populations

Map showing that seven majority-white CT state districts get extra representation because they each contain at last 1,000 incarcerated Blacks and Latinos from elsewhere in the state

Connecticut provides one of the more dramatic instance of prison gerrymandering in the nation. There are three districts where about 10 percent of the population is actually made up of incarcerated people from elsewhere in the state. In all three districts, more than half of the reported African-American population is actually incarcerated:

In Connecticut, should 9 equal 10?

For more on prison gerrymandering in Connecticut see our Connecticut campaign page.

* * *

Note: District 52 is 9.9% incarcerated and 87.4% of the African-American population in the district is incarcerated. District 59 is 13.9% incarcerated and 71.7% of the African-American population in the district is incarcerated. District 61 is 9.1% incarcerated and 59.0% of the African-American population in the district is incarcerated.


On Monday Cranston voters and the ACLU of Rhode Island asked the court to let the case continue against the City's prison gerrymandering scheme.

by Aleks Kajstura, April 3, 2014

On Monday Cranston voters and the ACLU of Rhode Island asked the court to let the case continue against the City’s prison gerrymandering scheme, filing a response to the City’s motion to dismiss.

Our Davidson case page has more info on the case, including the response above and other legal documents.


Rhode Island's new House speaker's district is based on prison gerrymandering, flaunts "one person, one vote"

by Aleks Kajstura, April 1, 2014

Today, Ed Fitzpatrick, political columnist for the Providence journal, tackled prison gerrymandering in Rhode Island:

[T]here’s nothing unusual about the fact that new Democratic House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello now wields more power than if he were simply representing part of Cranston.

But there is one unusual thing about Mattiello’s House district: 8.6 percent of the people in his district are inmates at the Adult Correctional Institutions, and the vast majority of those inmates can’t vote for or against him, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, based in Easthampton, Mass.

“It’s representation without population,” said the group’s legal director, Aleks Kajstura. “Counting incarcerated people as if they were residents of the ACI undermines the principle of one person, one vote.”

According to 2010 Census data, the ACI in Cranston houses 3,433 inmates, and many of them are ineligible to vote because they’re behind bars for a felony conviction. About 1,000 of the inmates face misdemeanors or are awaiting trial and can still vote. But they must vote by absentee ballot using the address they had before they checked into A.T. Wall’s graybar hotel (as I like to call it)….

“[Mattiello] has a responsibility to fix this problem, especially now that he is speaker,” Prison Policy Initiative executive director Peter J. Wagner said Monday. “This is about fairness and what’s right for the state. It’s not one corner of Cranston. He has a responsibility to ensure all state residents equal representation in government.”



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