by Aleks Kajstura, Legal Director, Prison Policy Initiative
In January, New Jersey became the 7th state to end prison gerrymandering – the practice of using incarcerated people to inflate the population of rural districts. That marks a milestone for criminal justice policy and democracy: over 25% of US residents now live in a state, county, or municipality that has ended prison gerrymandering.
Going into the 2020 redistricting cycle, California, Delaware, Maryland, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Washington State will be adjusting their redistricting data to count incarcerated people at their home address when drawing districts.
The Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of the towns where they are confined, though they continue to be constituents of their home districts – and in Maine and Vermont, where incarcerated people retain the right to vote, they are required to vote by absentee ballot back home. When that Census data is used to draw district lines it transfers power away from the home communities of incarcerated people, and gives it to legislative districts that contain prisons.
But an increasing number of states are adjusting Census data to avoid prison gerrymandering. State laws ending prison gerrymandering are a simple state-based ...