Welcome! We wrote our introduction to the site and its contents just for you.
Thank you to everyone who submitted a comment letter urging the Census Bureau to count incarcerated people at home for the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau has heard from an impressive list of organizations and individuals calling for a fair and accurate Census count in 2020.
For a sample of these letters, see our FRN 2016 page. If you submitted a comment to the Census Bureau and would like to see it posted, please forward a copy to us at
We expect a final decision from the Census Bureau by the end of 2016, so check back for updates.
Looking at the 2000 Census, the founders of the Prison Policy Initiative discovered that the sheer size of the prison population was combining with an outdated Census Bureau rule to seriously distort how political decisions are made in this country. In a series of reports, we put numbers on the problem of prison-based gerrymandering, suggested solutions, and sparked a national movement.
Since then, we’ve made tremendous progress towards ending prison gerrymandering:
“There are many ways to hijack political power. One of them is to draw state or city legislative districts around large prisons — and pretend that the inmates are legitimate constituents.”—Brent Staples
The clearest example of prison gerrymandering comes from the City of Anamosa, Iowa where a large prison was almost an entire city council district. Council districts are supposed to contain the same number of people, but basing districts on non-voting non-resident prison populations gives a handful of residents the same political power as thousands of residents elsewhere in the city.
50 State Guide to Fixing Prison-Based Gerrymandering
by Peter Wagner, Aleks Kajstura, Elena Lavarreda, Christian de Ocejo, and Sheila Vennell O'Rourke
Preventing prison-based gerrymandering in redistricting: What to watch for
by Peter Wagner (Prison Policy Initiative) and Brenda Wright (Dēmos)