On prison-based gerrymandering

By Jon E. Yount, January 2006

Most prison inmates, two-thirds of whom are non-white, recognize that much of this country's history emphasized a plantation economy significantly dependent on fleets of ships transporting slaves from distant homelands for the purpose of enriching a white populace. These inmates perceive little difference between that now-condemned practice and today's fleets of prison vans implementing a similar policy of exiling predominantly minority urban citizens from their home areas to enrich economically depressed white enclaves.

What these inmates do not comprehend is the political enrichment inherent in these rural steel-and-concrete plantations and the concomitant loss of political power by their home districts because of a Census glitch that counts prisoners as residents -- as disenfranchised as they are -- of the rural districts in which they are incarcerated.

The extraordinary efforts of Peter Wagner and Prison Policy Initiative to expose this insidious practice are awakening prison inmates to how they are being used to cannibalize the political power of their home communities. Hopefully, these prisoners will, in turn, encourage their families and friends, as well as the politicians who represent them, to join in this struggle to amend Census methods so as to count prison inmates as residents of their home districts.

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