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:
- 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: http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/
Center for Church and Prisons: www.churchandprison.org
Drawing Democracy Project: http://www.accessstrategies.org/programs/drawing-democracy-project
Black Empowerment Coalition: http://massblackempowermentcoalition.org/
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