Make Redistricting Fair - End Prison Based Gerrymandering

BWA is working to ensure that the Massachusetts Redistricting process is fair and transparent.  In particular, we are working to ensure that prisoners are correctly counted in their home districts instead of their place of incarceration.   See the video on how to adjust for this problem, and a statement prepared by the Black Empowerment Coalition on prison-based gerrymandering.

Testimony Against Prison-Based Gerrymandering and Solution Development

Defining the Problem for Intervention

  • That prison-based gerrymandering-the counting of inmates  as residents of their incarcerated communities in the census and its influence on the redistricting process  is an intentional means of shifting political and economic power  from  the inmate’s home community to his incarcerated community.
  • That prison-based gerrymandering in  the United States of America-with 5% of the World’s population but with 25% of the world’s incarcerated population,  with  approx. 7. 5 million on parole, probation, in jail, prison or under some form of correctional supervision in the United States criminal justice system , and approx. 2.5 million in  jails and prison,  is fundamentally fueled by  mass incarceration leading to  political  and economic disenfranchisement, and sociopolitical and economic  marginalization  in the American  democratic  process.
  • That prison-based gerrymandering in  the United States of  America-with over 60% of  minority  men  and youths  in the prison system or under some form of correctional supervision  fundamentally  denies their communities of needed political  representations  and economic resources for sustainable  community development thus  reflecting a fundamental disrespect for human dignity and human flourishing.
  • That prison-based gerrymandering in  Massachusetts; with  more than 50% of minority men, youth and women comprising of the Massachusetts prison population; with,  for example,   blacks in Massachusetts prisons  comprising of  29% of  the total  incarcerated population while consisting of  6-7% of  the entire Massachusetts population; fundamentally  punishes the inmates, their families, communities and the  larger society. The existential implications are reflected in the lack of adequate political representation and access to adequate economic resources, increase in crime, violence and  dysfunctional family structures.
  • That  the perpetuation  of prison-based gerrymandering  and  the shifting of  political  and economic  advantages to the incarcerated communities of the inmates from their  home  communities  fundamentally  necessitate their perpetual incarceration and imprisonment thus leading to  increase in impoverishment and  high rate of recidivism.

Defining the Solution for Intervention:

We Resolve:

  • That, on a short term bases and in light of the on-going redistricting process:  increase State Representative and Senate district populations within the 5% allowed deviation to adjust for districts with inflated populations due to miscounted prison populations.
  • That, on a long-term basis; a constitutional amendment process to eliminate prison-based gerrymandering in Massachusetts be initiated as early as possible to be reflected in the 2020 Census process.
  • That a resolution calling for the end to prison-based gerrymandering in Massachusetts  be passed in the state legislature of Massachusetts mandating the US Census Bureau to count inmates as residents of their home districts in the Census and not their places of incarceration.
  • That the  socio-political, economic and  existential implications and consequences of prison-based on the inmates’  family, community and the larger society  regarding public safety,  human dignity and human flourishing should fundamentally inform this process of ending prison-based gerrymandering in Massachusetts since it negates  the pristine democratic principles of the American Constitution and the democratic process, thus  necessitating an end to prison-based gerrymandering in Massachusetts as the states of New York, Maryland and Delaware have enacted.


Prison Policy Initiative:

Center for Church and Prisons:

Drawing Democracy Project:

Black Empowerment Coalition:

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