Vote Stealing: Prison-Based Gerrymandering

By Olivia LaRosa
November 21, 2012

In my second year of law school, the esteemed legal scholar and Bryant Smith Chair in Law at University of Texas Austin Law School Gerald Torres spoke at my alma mater. He spoke of his childhood in San Bernardino, CA. I know San Bernardino well. It was my nearest shopping destination from my home near Lake Arrowhead, and I often made the dreadful commute from my mountain home to SB for employment. San Bernardino is nearly a ghost town now since George AFB closed and March AFB limited operations.

I waited in a very long line so that I could speak to him. I mentioned San Bernardino, and he said, “Oh, you escaped too.” I smiled.

Please read this excellent piece Prison-Based Gerrymandering, that will add deeper explanation into the phenomenon, by Sharon Kyle JD of the LA Progressive and Hollywood Progressive.

Professor Torres told me then about prison gerrymandering. He explained that prisoners added to the constitutuent count even though they could not vote. I was then able to close an open inquiry I had been conducting regarding the proliferation of prisons, particularly in rural areas. This separation of prisoner from family and community flies in the face of basic protocol for rehabilitation of the prisoner. His best interests, and ours as well, are served by allowing him regular contact with his caring family and friends.

Therefore, it followed that I should investigate the eternal question in such outrageous miscarriages of public trust: cui bono?

Who benefits from ripping people from their families and communities and sticking them out in some desolate desiccated desert with only other prisoners for company?


Well, you should care because this means that the vote of someone who lives in a county whose population is swollen by prisoners who can’t vote counts FOR MORE than your vote. Do you have prisons in your county? Then your vote counts more than mine.

The constitutional jurisprudence of the United States affirms that each citizen has one vote. Not a vote-and-a-third, or seven-eights of a vote, but rather a vote that counts the same no matter what.

I can’t think of one person that this helps.

I do not consider employing people as prison guards as a help. I lived in Tehachapi California for 8 years. Tehachapi is home to a railroad person’s shrine, the Tehachapi Loop. It is also home to one of the largest prisons in California.

In the mid-1980s California was in the first blossoming of its prison bloom. (Turns aside to sneeze.) Tehachapi was then home to the largest prison population and broadest levels of security in the state. The city acquired suburbs full of prison guards and inmate families. Prison guards become cynical and/or corrupt. No way around it. People should be rotated out of these positions regularly and reintegrated back into society, just like the prisoners, eh?

I do not recommend this mixture as sound city planning.

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