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An overview of the comment letters calling on the Census Bureau to end prison gerrymandering.

by Peter Wagner, September 8, 2016

In June, the Census Bureau announced plans to continue counting incarcerated people as residents of their prison, not home, addresses in the 2020 Census, and invited public comments on their proposal. Almost 100,000 people including civil rights organizations, elected officials at all levels of government, former Directors of the Census Bureau and citizens from across the country weighed in to tell the Census Bureau that a prison is not a residence.

The comment period closed last week on September 1 and a final decision is expected by the end of the year. The Bureau won’t publish the comments it received until that time, but a large sample is available now at

One key theme in these comments is that:

Treating a prison as a “usual residence” reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of incarceration. The critical issue is that while a prison itself seems permanent, the people located there on any given day are not.

The Prison Policy Initiative and our long-time partners at Dēmos submitted an in-depth 18 page comment that corrects the Census Bureau’s fundamental misunderstanding of incarceration and explains that while a prison stay is temporary, an incarcerated person’s connection to his or her home is enduring.

Many other organizations made very substantial contributions of criminal justice data, demographic data, and legal research as well. For example, the Vera Institute of Justice analyzed never seen before data from Washington, Oregon, and Nebraska to show that the median time at the current facility on April 1st, 2015 was less than nine months.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF questioned why the Census Bureau recognizes the family and community ties of boarding school students and members of Congress to count them at their home addresses, but fails to give incarcerated people the same consideration. Several elected officials made it clear that residents of their jurisdictions remain their constituents — and continue to look to them for representation — even when incarceration forcibly moves these constituents to different counties and states. This same point about residence was also made by a former correctional officer who observed that incarcerated people were not regarded as fellow constituents by nearby residents in her county.

There were also several important petitions. Leaders of 35 foundations, including Ford Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation and Bauman Foundation, explained their need for accurate Census data and urged the Bureau to recognize that incarcerated people should be counted at home. 39 civil rights groups joined with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to call for a fair and accurate 2020 Census. Daily Kos organized 29,000 of their members to send individual messages to the Census Bureau and 48,314 of their members to sign a petition. CREDO Action also asked its members to submit public comments calling for an end to prison gerrymandering, with more than 47,600 doing so.

The Prison Policy Initiative would like to thank everyone who submitted a comment calling for a fair and accurate 2020 Census. Stay tuned to for more analysis and updates on next steps.

The New York Times editorial board summarizes the problem of prison gerrymandering and explains why the Census Bureau must take action.

by Alison Walsh, July 18, 2016

The Census Bureau’s proposal to continue counting incarcerated people as “residents” of prison locations, rather than at their home addresses, has drawn widespread opposition.

We can now add the Editorial Board of The New York Times to the list of those voicing dissent.

In “The Wrong Way to Count Prisoners,” the Editorial Board summarizes the problem of prison gerrymandering.

Counting inmates this way allows legislators who draw electoral lines to inflate the power of certain areas with “constituents” who have been stripped of the right to vote and have no interaction with the larger community.

The editorial also cites the recent decision in Cranston, Rhode Island, as evidence that counting people where they are temporarily incarcerated is unconstitutional.

The federal courts have recently begun to see this gerrymandering as a threat to electoral fairness. In May, for example, a United States District Court held that the city of Cranston, R.I., had violated the principle of one person one vote by deeming inmates at a correctional facility “residents” for the drawing of district lines for the City Council and the local school committee.

The court rightly found that the inmates who made up about 25 percent of Cranston’s Ward 6 were not true constituents. According to court documents, their median length of stay was only 99 days, which can in no way be seen as permanent residency. Those convicted of felonies were barred from voting. And inmates held for reasons other than a felony conviction, the court pointed out, were able to vote — but only by absentee ballot based on their addresses before incarceration. This meant that every seven voters in Ward 6 had the same political power as 10 voters in the city’s other wards.

While a few states have outlawed prison gerrymandering on their own, responsibility for ending the practice permanently and nationally lies with the Census Bureau.

Some states can prevent prison-based gerrymandering by simply counting incarcerated people at their home addresses. But according to an analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative, some states are prohibited by law from adjusting census data when drawing district lines. In other words, the principle of one person one vote will continue to suffer until the Census Bureau changes the way it counts prisoners.

Two residents of rural upstate New York explain why a prison cell is not a residence.

by Peter Wagner, July 15, 2016

Of the 155 comments submitted to the Census Bureau in 2015 calling for incarcerated people to be counted at home in the next Census, two letters from residents of rural upstate New York are notable because they discuss how the county governments in this prison-heavy region of the state consider the question of whether a prison cell is a residence.

Dan Jenkins wrote about Franklin County’s view that a prison cell is not a residence:

I live, since the late 1990’s, in Franklin County, New York, a rural county that has a large prison population. Prisoners are not residents of our community as they originate outside of our community, they have no interaction with our community and immediately leave the community when their sentences expire or when the Department of Corrections chooses to transfer them elsewhere. Enumerating these populations as part of our community forces our community to choose between either: (1) rejecting your counts, or (2) using census data that dilutes the votes of most of our community’s residents to the benefit of the few who live immediately adjacent to the prison.

I have been concerned about the implications of your “residence rule” for democracy within rural communities since the 1990 Census when I was a resident of another upstate New York county which similarly hosted a large correctional facility. I, and many of my Jefferson County neighbors were concerned and raised public awareness that relying on your counts resulted in county apportionment that diluted the votes of residents who did not leave near the prisons.

In the late 1990’s, I moved to Franklin County and was again involved as a citizen activist in redistricting. There, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I would not need to organize a post-2000 lawsuit against Franklin County because my county was already committed to modifying your census data to remove the prison populations and avoid what is now commonly called “prison gerrymandering.” […]

What should be obvious from my letter is that I, along with the elected leaders of my county, were concerned that including the prison population where the Census Bureau counted it but where those people — 10% of our county’s Census population — do not reside would have a vote dilutive impact on the other parts of our county. We simply did not want to draw a county legislative districts that had a preponderance of incarcerated people. Such districts would have given every county resident living near the prisons much more voting power than the other residents of the county.

Having considered the effects of “prison gerrymandering” on rural counties that host prisons, I and many of my neighbors came to the obvious conclusion that the Census Bureau’s counts are inaccurate in so far as the Bureau counted incarcerated people as residents of the prison locations. As a result, we removed the prison populations from the one set of legislative districts that we could control — our county districts.

And here I feel I need to clarify our approach, given current statements from some plaintiffs in the current Texas case about excluding some non-voting populations from redistricting.

For us, in Franklin County, the decision was not whether to count incarcerated people, but where they should rightly be counted, which we think is at their home of record. We had no right to count prisoners as local constituents, they relied on the representative services of their home legislators, and there is nothing that one of our county legislators could do for them.

Removing the prison population was the best we could do because we lacked authority over the redistricting bodies of the New York City Council, the Albany City Council and the other home locations of the incarcerated people. As I, along with two neighbors wrote to you in our July 9, 2004 comment letter: “We know of no complaints from prisoners as a result, as they no doubt look to the New York City Council for the local issues of interest to them.”

Thankfully, New York State took things one step further with the passage of Part XX (ending prison gerrymandering at the state and local levels) which made sure that all state prisoners are counted in the appropriate locations. This is legislation that I and many of my neighbors supported. And while I support Part XX, I must note that the law had one shortcoming that only the Census Bureau can fix: Part XX did not reallocate federal prisoners to their homes; it simply removed them from the count.

The Census Bureau is the only entity which can provide a complete solution to the redistricting confusion caused by the current “usual residence rule.” I urge you to adjust this policy and count all prisoners at their homes of record in the next federal Census.

Martha Swan, from the neighboring county of Essex, also wrote that her county doesn’t consider a prison cell to be a residence. Swan explains that the county concluded that using the Census Bureau’s prison counts to draw county legislative districts results in vote dilution for other parts of the county, and went as far as to write that conclusion into local law:

I am writing … to urge you to count incarcerated people in their home districts.

My name is Martha Swan and I live and work in Essex County in northern New York, near the border with Canada. I live in the state’s largest and most sparsely populated Senate district. My Senate district has more people incarcerated in state prisons than any other district in the state.

I would like to focus my comment on documenting that my county does not consider incarcerated people to be residents of our county. There are 6 counties in my senate district. Four of those counties contain prisons, and all 4 choose not to count the prison populations when drawing county districts or designing weighted voting systems.

My county, Essex, justified its decision in its local law with a lengthy discussion on the practical and legal grounds of why inmates are not residents of the county. While I understand that more than 200 counties across the United States do this as well, I have read that my county was the one of the few to put its reasoning in writing and then vote it in to law.

For that reason, I would like to share with you part of Essex Local Law No 144 of 2012:

“Persons incarcerated in the state and federal correctional institutions have been convicted of criminal acts constituting felonies and their presence in Essex County is considered involuntary. These incarcerated persons: are not residents of the County since they are here involuntarily and can be relocated by the Commissioner of Corrections at the latter’s discretion; are not entitled to vote and thus are not voters in Essex County; and receive no services from the County – except when they commit new criminal acts and are brought before County Court, or when they are entitled to assignment of counsel as indigents in connection with parole hearings under New York Executive Law Article 12-B. Persons incarcerated in state and federal correctional institutions live in a separate environment, do not participate in the life of Essex County, and do not affect the social and economic character of the towns in which they are located.

“The inclusion of these federal and state correctional facility inmates unfairly dilutes the votes or voting weight of persons residing in other towns within Essex County.”

Very similar language was also used in Essex County Local Law No. 1 of 2003. Recognizing that you may not have ready access to my small county’s local laws, I have attached the 2003 and 2012 laws to this letter.

I urge you to follow the lead of Essex County New York and count incarcerated people as residents of their pre-incarceration addresses and not as residents of my county.

96% of the comments the Census Bureau received regarding residence rules for incarcerated people urged the Bureau to count them at their home addresses not at correctional facilities.

by Harrison Stark, July 7, 2016

On June 1, 2015, Jerry Zorsch submitted a comment letter in response to the Census Bureau’s May 20, 2015 Federal Register Notice regarding the 2020 Decennial Census Residence Rule and Residence Situations. Drawing on his experience as County Commissioner of Morgan County, Tennessee, including serving as a chairman of the County’s Redistricting Committee, Zorsch contends that because the Census Bureau “count[s] inmates in a prison in the county as if they were residents of that neighborhood,” counties like Morgan “end[] up with severe malapportionment.” The result is that “[i]t is impossible to count population bloc[s] like that in our county electoral system and still achieve equal representation among the citizens of this county.”

Commissioner Zorsch further explains that the Census Bureau’s residency designation contradicts Tennessee’s residency law. State law defines residence as “where the person’s habitation is fixed and is where, during periods of absence, the person definitely intends to return,” Mr. Zorsch contends, however, that imprisoned persons are not residents of their prison facilities in any meaningful ways:

These [incarcerated] men all come from outside our county. Upon release they immediately leave our county. They are not buying homes, raising families and putting down roots here. They came here, quite simply because they were forced to at gunpoint and they stay here only because of walls, wire and armed guards.

Moreover, Commissioner Zorsch demonstrates how the inclusion of prison populations by the Census Bureau has resulted in drastically unequal voting power for certain areas in Morgan County. Following the 2010 Census, the County’s correctional facility contained 2,400 inmates. Each district was drawn to contain 3,667 people, such that “whichever district [got] the prison block [would] only have 1,267 actual residents in it and 2,400 prisoners.” The result was that “the residents of one of our districts hav[e] 3 times the representation of the residents in the rest of the county.” Commissioner Zorsch explained how the problem got worse. One of two County prison facilities closed and the remaining facility absorbed the entire prison population, resulting in just one census block containing 10% of Morgan County’s population.

Finally, Commissioner Zorsch requests that the Census Bureau “please help us correct this problem and get back to the ‘One Man, One Vote’ ideal” and “help us to achieve fair and equal representation to all the citizens of our county, and those across this great nation by revising the Residence Rule or Residence Situations to count incarcerated people at home in the Census.”

Despite Commissioner Zorsch’s request, the Census Bureau has proposed to maintain the status quo and count incarcerated individuals at their prison facility addresses rather than at their pre-incarceration addresses.

Harrison Stark, a 2L at Yale Law School, is a 2016 summer intern at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.

A U.S. District Judge ruled today that the City of Cranston violated the one person, one vote principle of the U.S. constitution when it counted people incarcerated at the Adult Correctional Institutions as "residents" of one Ward of the City.

May 24, 2016

City of Cranston, Rhode Island ordered to redraw district lines within 30 days

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Steven Brown (ACLU of RI): 401 831-7171

Providence, RI. — In a precedent-setting ruling, U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux issued a decision today holding that the City of Cranston violated the one person, one vote requirements of the U.S. Constitution when it allocated the entire incarcerated population of the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) as “residents” of one ward of the City when it drew district lines for the City Council and School Committee following the 2010 Census. The ruling allows the City 30 days to present the Court with a new redistricting plan meeting constitutional requirements.

Today’s ruling, just the second of its kind in the nation, concluded that the City artificially inflated the population count of Ward 6, where the ACI is located, by treating all incarcerated persons as “residents” of the prison for redistricting purposes. Doing so, said the court, violates the rights of persons residing in other wards to equal representation as required by the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

“I’m thrilled that our fight for equal representation has been successful,” said Karen Davidson, lead plaintiff. “Fairness in redistricting is a fundamental right and I’m glad that the court has vindicated our claims.”

At issue in the case was the City of Cranston’s choice to count the more than three thousand inmates at the ACI in a single city ward for the purposes of drawing City Council and School Committee districts. Plaintiffs argued this “prison gerrymandering” was improper because those incarcerated at the ACI are not true constituents of local elected officials, but instead remain residents of their pre-incarceration communities for virtually all legal purposes, including voting.

Judge Lagueux agreed with the plaintiffs’ claims, stating that “the ACI’s inmates lack a ‘representational nexus’ with the Cranston City Council and School Committee.” He noted that “Cranston’s elected officials do not campaign or endeavor to represent their ACI constituents,” and pointed out that that the majority of incarcerated persons cannot vote, and those who can are required by law to vote by absentee ballot from their pre-incarceration address.

Due to the questionable counting, persons at the only state-run correctional facility in Rhode Island account for 25% of Ward 6’s total “population.” According to Census Bureau data, without the incarcerated population, Ward 6 has only 10,209 true constituents. Yet those constituents now wield the same political power as the roughly 13,500 constituents in each of the other wards.

Cranston residents Karen Davidson, Debbie Flitman, Eugene Perry, and Sylvia Weber joined the ACLU of Rhode Island as plaintiffs in the case. They were represented in federal court by Demos, the Prison Policy Initiative, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Rhode Island.

“This is a big win for democracy,” said Adam Lioz of Demos, counsel for the plaintiffs. “Prison gerrymandering distorts representation and should no longer be tolerated. This decision should pave the way for other courts to address this long-standing problem.”

“We applaud the court’s decision requiring the City to correct its prison gerrymandering problem without delay,” said Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island. “It is time for Cranston to stop holding elections under a one-person, three-quarters of a vote regime.”

“Counting people at the ACI as constituents of Ward 6 officials made no sense,” said Aleks Kajstura of the Prison Policy Initiative. “They can’t use the park or library, attend a City Council meeting, or send their kids to public schools. And, even those who can vote must do so from their actual legal residence, not the prison location.”

“This ruling means that Cranston can no longer play games with our democracy by artificially inflating the political power of one district over another. People who are incarcerated should be counted as residents of the districts where they lived, not as so-called ‘residents’ of where they are involuntarily confined,” said Sean Young, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

ACLU of RI volunteer attorney Lynette Labinger added: “The ACLU first urged the City to redraw its district lines four years ago in order to protect the rights of voters in the City’s five other wards. I am gratified that they should soon have their voices heard in equal measure with those in Ward 6.”

The case is Davidson et. al. v. City of Cranston. Plaintiffs’ complaint can be found here and their motion for summary judgment is here. Judge Lagueux’s ruling is here.

Tennessee ends mandatory prison gerrymandering in county governments; should next take up bills on state legislative districts.

by Aleks Kajstura, May 2, 2016

Hot on the heels of a federal court decision holding prison gerrymandering unconstitutional in a Florida County, Tennessee has passed a law last week clarifying that its counties may also opt out of the practice.

The new law provides:

When a reapportionment is made, residents of a correctional institution who cannot by law register in the county as voters may be excluded from any consideration of representation.

Most states are silent on the question of how local governments handle prison populations at redistricting time, and over 200 local governments that have significant prison populations choose to avoid prison gerrymandering. (And the larger the prison population, the more likely the county is to correct the problem.) But Tennessee was one of only 3 states that required its local governments to use Census data that counted incarcerated people as if they were residents of the town the prison was located in. (The two remaining states are Minnesota and Wisconsin.)

This is an important first step for ending prison gerrymandering in Tennessee, which features some of the most dramatic and growing prison gerrymandering in the country. The problem really took off in 1992, when the state’s Attorney General interpreted the state constitution to require counties to use federal Census data for redistricting, which counted people incarcerated in the county as if they were county residents. And as the state’s prison population more than doubled over the next two decades, and counties continued to dutifully abide by the ever-more-questionable decision, some county residents had their vote diluted by as much as 88%.

Still, the legislature was silent on ending prison gerrymandering until recently, when Representative Weaver, the bill’s sponsor tried to solve the problem for Trousdale County, declaring that “we need this desperately”: a large new prison was slated to open in Trousdale County, where the projected prison population would have accounted for 3 whole districts on its own.

Tennessee’s counties are now unequivocally free to protect their democracy from the Census Bureau’s prison miscount. Now what about the state’s General Assembly districts? Time is running out for the bills to end prison gerrymandering in the state legislative districts in this session, but I hope to see Tennessee soon finish what it started.

Federal Judge strikes down Florida county's prison gerrymander as unconstitutional.

by Aleks Kajstura, March 21, 2016

On Saturday, in a thorough 86 page opinion, Judge Walker of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida struck a blow to prison gerrymandering.

I’ll get to the decision in a minute, but first here’s some background. Each decade, state and local legislative districts are redrawn across the country to ensure that each district contains the same population as other districts. In this way, all residents are given the same access to representation and government. However, the Census Bureau’s practice of counting incarcerated people as residents of the prison location, instead of their home communities, results in significant distortions in achieving fair representation. As Judge Walker put it, “blind reliance on census data can lead to unconstitutional results.”

Over 200 local governments across the US avoid prison gerrymandering by refusing to use Census Bureau data that counts out-of-town people incarcerated there as if they were town residents. But Jefferson County in Florida bucked the trend, preferring to give the residents of District 3 the advantage of sharing their representatives with the disenfranchised people incarcerated in the state’s Jefferson Correctional Institution (JCI).

While all residents of all the other county board districts were harmed by artificially inflating the population of district 3, the prison gerrymandering resulted in particularly harsh impact on the African-American community in the County. The ACLU of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute brought the suit to correct these inequalities.

The judge struck down the prison-gerrymandered redistricting plan and has ordered the county to redistrict based on population data that doesn’t count the people in the state prison as if they were all residents of District 3 (of the 1,157 people incarcerated at JCI, about 9 are Jefferson residents at all). The new plan could allow for a Black influence district in addition to the current Black majority district.

The opinion concludes, summarizing:

Defendants argue vigorously that excluding the JCI inmates from the population base for districting purposes would be “arbitrary.” The opposite is true—including them in the population base is arbitrary. The inmates at JCI, unlike aliens, children, etc. living in Jefferson County, are not meaningfully affected by the decisions of the Boards. To say they are “constituents” of the Board representatives from District 3 is to diminish the term constituent. To treat the inmates the same as actual constituents makes no sense under any theory of one person, one vote, and indeed under any theory of representative democracy. Furthermore, such treatment greatly dilutes the voting and representational strength of denizens in other districts. Jefferson County’s districting scheme for its Board of County Commissioners and School Board therefore violates the Equal Protection Clause. [Citations omitted.]

The opinion is eminently readable; it includes a systematic overview of redistricting case law, including a reminder that none of us technically have a “right to vote”, to a thorough analysis of prisoner-community relations (or lack there of). I promise the 86 pages fly by, you can read it for yourself.

Opinion, Calvin v. Jefferson (March 19, 2016 ). Congratulations to the ACLU and Florida Justice Institute!


And lastly, for anyone wondering about Judge Walker’s approach in relation to Evenwel, he “expresses no opinion” on the relative importance of electoral versus representational equality because prison gerrymandering serves neither goal.

Prison Policy Initiative joins Dēmos in amicus brief to SCOTUS, tackling prison gerrymandering issues in Evenwel v. Abbott

by Aleks Kajstura, September 30, 2015

If you’ve been keeping up on current events in redistricting, chances are you’ve been hearing a lot about the Evenwel v. Abbott case recently. Here’s the rundown from a prison gerrymandering perspective, with our partners at Dēmos:

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to hear a case in which litigants in Texas are asking the Court to undermine the core constitutional principle of “one person, one vote.” In this case, Evenwel v. Abbott, the plaintiffs are asking the Court to require states, when drawing district lines, to ignore anyone not already eligible or registered to vote. Their case will be argued in the Court’s current term.

Dēmos opposes this misguided effort to treat non-voters as non-persons under the Fourteenth Amendment. To assist the Court in understanding the full ramifications of the case, Dēmos has authored a friend-of-the-court brief addressing an issue that particularly affects incarcerated persons – the issue of “prison gerrymandering.” The problem of prison gerrymandering, where incarcerated people are used to pad out districts that host prisons, is not directly at issue in the Evenwel case, but the plaintiffs in Evenwel have invoked the issue of prison gerrymandering as if it supported their arguments for discounting non-voters. Our “friend of the court” brief explains why they are wrong.

The brief was filed on behalf of four organizations whose members have long fought prison gerrymandering, DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality), EPOCA (Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement), VOCAL-NY (Voices of Community Activists & Leaders – New York), and VOTE (Voice of the Ex-Offender). Dēmos was joined as counsel on this brief by the Prison Policy Initiative.

Currently, the Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as if they lived at the location of the prison instead of their home addresses. This can indeed result in representational inequality when states and localities use the data for redistricting. But the ultimate goal of reforming prison gerrymandering is not to eliminate incarcerated persons entirely from the population count. Rather, the four organizations that Dēmos is representing as amici curiae want to ensure that incarcerated persons are tabulated at the correct location, as constituents of their own legislators.

Our brief explains why treating incarcerated persons as “residents” of the prison where they are involuntarily detained, instead of their home communities, creates serious inaccuracies and distorts redistricting, whether or not the incarcerated persons are eligible to vote. It further explains how creating a constitutional requirement to exclude non-voting populations from the population base used for redistricting would not end prison gerrymandering, and in fact could make things worse.

McAlester,Okla. finally ends prison gerrymandering (again). It's time for a national solution.

by Aleks Kajstura, March 17, 2015

I’m happy to report that McAlester, Oklahoma has finally solved the prison gerrymandering problem it stumbled into last decade. It may have taken the City a while, but it’s certainly not for their lack of trying.

The City used to exclude prison populations when redistricting, but a mid-decade charter revision accidentally tied their hands when the 2010 round of redistricting rolled around. The new charter language — based on the model charter published by the National Civic League — pegged McAlester’s redistricting data to population data “according to the most recent Census”, which of course tabulated people incarcerated at the two state correctional facilities in town as if they were actual residents of McAlester. This resulted in the city feeling forced into drawing a district where people incarcerated by the state accounted for nearly 60% of the population. This means that McAlester residents who live in that city council district get more than twice as much representation on the city council as any other city resident.

Last summer McAlester was poised to fix the charter, and those who voted overwhelmingly approved the charter change in August, but that too didn’t last. A legal fault was discovered with the published election notice, and a new vote was needed.

And so we arrive at March of 2015, when the residents of McAlester
voted once again to finally end prison gerrymandering. And that’s great news, for McAlester. But there are many cities that lack McAlester’s persistent pursuit of equal representation. And quite frankly, America’s cities should not be put in a position where they have to question Census data’s suitability for redistricting.

The Census Bureau should count incarcerated people at home, rather than as residents of the location of the prison. This national solution would not only end prison gerrymandering for the rest of the cities still struggling with prison gerrymandering but also help the cities (and states) who already take the time and effort to adjust the Census Bureau’s redistricting data on their own. And as an interim measure, the The National Civic League should amend its model city charter to encourage cities to avoid prison gerrymandering by making their own data adjustments.

Redistricting data used to map where incarcerated people come from, providing precise tool for policymakers.

by Aleks Kajstura, February 26, 2015

Yesterday, jointly with the Justice Policy Institute, we released a new report that for the first time mapped where people incarcerated in Maryland state prisons come from and how much Maryland taxpayers spend on their incarceration. The report includes detailed maps and information that can better inform investment decisions in these communities to help solve long-standing challenges and improve public safety.

The research was possible because of the data that was generated when Maryland implemented their No Representation Without Population law, ending prison gerrymandering. In order to count incarcerated people at home for redistricting purposes, the state needed to find out where incarcerated people live. Incarcerated people already had their addresses on file at the Department of Corrections, and the Maryland Planning Department mapped them all out in preparation for redistricting, then adjusted the population data the state received from the Census Bureau accordingly. By comparing the State’s list of populations and the Census Bureau’s reports we were able to show where the state focused its spending on incarceration.

As Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel-21), one of the law’s lead sponsors, put it:

“I introduced the No Representation Without Population Act to provide better data for redistricting purposes, and I’m now looking forward to using all the data and information generated by this law to directly enlighten future criminal justice policy choices in Maryland.”

Additional data and links are available on our home communities page.

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