PPI Board Member Heather Thompson chosen as a 2014 Media for a Just Society Award Finalist

by Leah Sakala, April 16, 2014

We are thrilled to announce that historian and Prison Policy Initiative board member Heather Thompson has been chosen by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency as a 2014 Media for a Just Society Award Finalist for her fantastic piece in The Atlantic, “How Prisons Change the Balance of Power in America.”

Heather’s piece reveals the many ways that our nation’s unprecedented use of incarceration has distorted our political landscape. As she explained,

…locking up unprecedented numbers of citizens over the last forty years has itself made the prison system highly resistant to reform through the democratic process. To an extent that few Americans have yet appreciated, record rates of incarceration have, in fact, undermined our American democracy, both by impacting who gets to vote and how votes are counted.

Of course, one of the ways mass incarceration distorts democracy is via prison gerrymandering:

Today, just as it did more than a hundred years earlier, the way the Census calculates resident population also plays a subtle but significant role. As ex-Confederates knew well, prisoners would be counted as residents of a given county, even if they could not themselves vote: High numbers of prisoners could easily translate to greater political power for those who put them behind bars.

Congratulations, Heather!

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