California’s New Redistricting Legislation Helps Neighborhoods Where Prisoners Once Lived

California’s New Redistricting Legislation Helps Neighborhoods Where Prisoners Once Lived

Incarcerated individuals will be counted for redistricting in their pre-arrest residence, not their current penitentiary location, helping urban areas receive proper representation in the state legislature.

Published August 31, 2011

In California, not only are Black residents close to claiming a redistricting victory, but minorities in areas where prisoners once lived might soon do the same.

As’s Joyce Jones reported today, California has successfully implemented a new redistricting process that puts the task of redrawing districts into the hands of the people, instead of politicians. The new legislation is beneficial for California residents because it will also ensure the proper counting of the approximately 140,000 incarcerated persons in the state to ensure fair representation.

Black Californians aren’t the only ones applauding the new redistricting legislation — the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund applauds the measure, as well.


The organization praises the fact that the legislation ends the practice of prison-based gerrymandering in California. Under prison-based gerrymandering, prisoners are counted for redistricting in the areas in which they are incarcerated, not their pre-arrest residence, providing inaccurate counts in minority areas.

"Because California's incarcerated persons are disproportionately people of color, with African-Americans and Latinos comprising 70 percent of the state's prisoners but only 40 percent of its overall population, the current counting of incarcerated persons at their place of incarceration, rather than at their pre-arrest residence, severely weakens the voting strength of entire communities of color," said John Payton, NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund president.  "Fortunately, California took an important step in the right direction in curing this problematic practice."

The NAACP hopes that the new legislation for California’s redistricting process will serve as a model for other states to count incarcerated populations correctly in the next round of redistricting.  The organization is currently urging California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the legislation into law.

To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.

(Photo: Dan Bannister/ OneWordPhotography)

Written by Danielle Wright


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