Detroit Free Press Covers VAAC Advocacy on Prison Gerrymandering

On October 2, 2021, the Detroit Free Press published an article by Miriam Marini with the headline “Advocates push for inmates to be counted at their home addresses as redistricting ensues.” The well-written article does a deep dive into the issue and quotes VAAC chairperson, Danny Jones, as well as several legislators who are advocating for new laws to stop the practice.

Below is an excerpt, but we encourage you to read the full article here.

Danny Jones of Detroit was four years into a life sentence in 2000 at the age of 20 when an officer handed out census forms to each inmate on his cell block at Michigan Reformatory in Ionia County. As he looked over the paperwork, another inmate yelled out, advising them against filling out the forms.

“They said don’t fill out that form. They’re trying to count us as residents here in Ionia so they can get funding and resources and benefits. He’s like ‘throw that away’ So, I tore it up, and I flushed it down a toilet,” said Jones, now 41, who was released two years ago. 

Jones now serves as chairman of the Voting Access for All Coalition, a group of organizations that works against barriers to the ballot box and seeks to end prison gerrymandering. 

“People need to be represented equally no matter where you come from, no matter who you are, no matter what your beliefs are. You still need to have adequate representation,” Jones said. “When we’re talking about the needs of people, meeting people’s basic needs is what will end mass incarceration and is what will ensure that people have a fair opportunity.”

Testifying before Michigan’s redistricting commission in July, Jones urged the group of randomly selected citizens tasked with constructing new district lines to draw districts that count inmates based on where they’re from, rather than where they’re incarcerated.

“It is the responsibility of this commission to ensure that fair and equal maps are drawn, but that’s impossible for you to do when you do not have an accurate count of the populations of people of where they will be returning to when they leave prison,” Jones said.

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