Thursday, April 29, 2010

Maryland shatters prison census scam

The prison-industrial complex has had a racket going on for years.

For starts, they criminalize everything and everybody. The batshit War on Drugs has been a major contributor to this policy. Because of this, America's prison population has increased 5 times in only 30 years. So it's probably fair to say that 80% of people in prison don't even belong there.

Right-wing lawmakers from exurban districts know they can use this to scam the census. They pass laws that make everybody a criminal, which forces more prisons to be built. And they get these prisons built in their districts.

Thus, the census shows a huge increase in the population for these areas - which gives these areas more legislative seats and more funding. Most states don't allow people imprisoned for felonies to vote, so the lawmakers don't have to worry about inmates voting them out of office for passing the laws that got them locked up.

But now Maryland has taken a step towards nipping this scam in the bud. (Maryland???)

Maryland has a new law called the No Representation Without Population Act. This law says that - for the purposes of state legislative redistricting - inmates will be counted as residents of wherever they lived before they were imprisoned, not as residents of the prison.

That way, conservative districts that have prisons won't get free legislative seats on the backs of people who can't vote. In fact, in one prison district, 18% of the population is made up of inmates. With the new law, however, this 18% won't be counted in that district but will instead be counted where they previously lived.

All states should follow Maryland's lead. In fact, I'd expand this law so it applies not just to state legislative redistricting but congressional redistricting as well. Right-wing legal foundations will cry foul - but if they don't want a law like this, maybe they shouldn't have made felons out of everybody for things that weren't even illegal 30 years ago.


1 comment:

  1. It turns out that there is almost no impact on funding from where incarcerated people are counted. But the Maryland bill goes right to the core of the problem of the Census Bureau's prison miscount: political representation. Maryland is leading the way on ending prison-based gerrymandering.