Victory: Amistad Statement on the Defeat of Prison Gerrymandering

image shows a sign that says Vote Here Today juxtaposed next to a picture of incarcerated people in PA State prison with the words victory in pink overlaid on top

On Tuesday, August 24th  the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, the body charged with drawing Pennsylvania’s political maps, voted 3-2 to end the practice of prison gerrymandering.

For decades people incarcerated in Pennsylvania’s state prisons have been counted for political purposes where they are incarcerated instead of where they permanently reside. This practice of prison gerrymandering has been a political power grab disenfranchising mostly Black and brown communities across Pennsylvania and inflating the political power of mostly white and mostly rural communities where the vast majority of state prisons are located.

Over the course of the past year a dynamic movement came together to fight back against this political power grab. In our movement family Abolitionist Law Center, Free The Ballot! Incarcerated Voter Family Network and Pennsylvania Voice, of which Amistad Law Project is a member organization, successfully mobilized along with groups like Fair Districts PA and Better PA to put an end to this blatant practice of political disenfranchisement.

This week our movement celebrated victory as the Legislative Reapportionment Committee for the most part ended the practice of prison gerrymandering. Read our statement below about this important victory.

Amistad Law Project Statement on the Defeat of Prison Gerrymandering

Today we applaud the decision of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to mostly end the racist, classist and unconstitutional practice of prison gerrymandering. Today’s vote is an important step to return political power to our communities where it belongs.

For years communities, primarily Black and brown neighborhoods, across Pennsylvania have been robbed of political power by the practice of prison gerrymandering which has counted incarcerated community members where they are imprisoned and not where they permanently reside.

We are overjoyed that the practice of prison gerrymandering is mostly ending in Pennsylvania. We say mostly, because people sentenced to life without parole will still be counted in the prison where they are incarcerated. This is the wrong move and we will continue to fight it.

People sentenced to life without parole can return home through exoneration or the Board of Pardons and we are fighting to extend parole eligibility to lifers. These individuals MUST be counted in their home communities not where they are incarcerated.

Still we celebrate this as an important first step and a victory. We recommit ourselves to the struggle ahead to ensure that our communities have the power to get what we need to thrive and that involves one day ending prison gerrymandering for lifers as well.

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