Despite Past Attempts, OR Not Among States to End Prison Gerrymandering
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
PORTLAND, Ore. - Local prison populations can affect how voting districts will be drawn.
Eleven states, including Washington, have reconsidered where incarcerated people are counted - where they are from, not where they are serving time. However, Oregon is not one of them. The issue has become more pressing as redistricting goes into full swing.
Wanda Bertram, communication strategist at the Prison Policy Initiative, described how prison gerrymandering create unequal representation.
"If I am in one district that's close to the prison, and you're in another district that's across town and you don't live close to the prison, I'm going to end up with, relatively speaking, more access to political representation than you do," she said, "because the actual size of my district has been 'padded' by incarcerated people."
In Washington state, people in prison will be counted as residents of their home address. Bertram said this puts political power back into these communities, which especially is important for areas over-represented in prisons. She noted that Oregon has introduced several measures, including in 2019, that would end so-called "prison gerrymandering" - but none has passed.
The Prison Policy Initiative believes it would be ideal if the Census Bureau changed its policy to count incarcerated people as residents of the communities they call home. Bertram noted that it's also too late for states such as Oregon to end prison gerrymandering, since the legislative session already is over for the year.
"We're shifting our focus to urge cities and counties heavily impacted by prison gerrymandering to take action at the local level," she said, "because counties and cities in most states have the ability to decide to not count incarcerated people when they redistrict."
In the 2010 census, 28% of Pendleton's population and 12% of Salem's were made up of incarcerated people. Pendleton Mayor John Turner said by email that no one in the community has expressed concern about this issue. The Prison Policy Initiative also is asking states to "spread out" their prison population so it isn't overrepresented in certain communities. The Legislative Policy and Research Office in Oregon said the state can't do this because the Legislature didn't pass a measure allowing it.
get more stories like this via email
The Nevada primary election is June 14, and early voting starts tomorrow and runs through June 10. Mail balloting is now permanent, so every active …
Democrats in the Florida Legislature are reviving calls for stricter gun-control laws, following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Florida's …
This week, in honor of World Otter Day, conservation groups are looking to raise awareness about efforts to restore sea otters along more areas of …
Health and Wellness
With the unofficial start to summer, pools around Ohio are opening this Memorial Day weekend, and when it comes to swim time, experts encourage …
Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of water recreation season, and before putting on a swimsuit, Iowa environmental experts say being mindful …
As the nation processes the horrific shooting in Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers were killed, teachers' unions across Illinois and America …
The cost of heading out of town this Memorial Day weekend will be higher than past years, with higher gas prices and inflation hitting travelers…
Health and Wellness
One of Connecticut's largest health systems launched a new resource in Hartford this month, aimed at helping patients access healthy and nutritious …