“The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission must end this harmful practice now, before it disempowers our communities for another decade,” says our very own Danny Jones, in a recent opinion published in the Detroit News. Danny, chairperson of the Voting Access for All Coalition, speaks from personal experience, describing the harmful practice of prison gerrymandering, counting prisoners as residents of districts where they are imprisoned, even though they have no ties to that community, likely call a different district home, and are not even allowed to vote.
This system is unjust. I know because I’ve seen it firsthand. I first learned about prison gerrymandering in the year 2000, when I was incarcerated at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia—over 130 miles away from my hometown of Detroit.
While I was there, an officer passed out census forms to everyone in the cell block. As I started filling out the form in my cell, someone called out, “Don’t fill it out! They’re trying to count us as residents here in Ionia to receive more benefits and privileges.”
As soon as I heard that, I tore up the census form and threw it into the toilet. I wanted to show up and count for my community, not the community where I was incarcerated.
Since my release in 2019, I have devoted myself to empowering people like me who have been disempowered by mass incarceration and to ensuring our voices are heard in the democratic process. Ending prison gerrymandering in Michigan is a crucial part of that work.Danny Jones