Outside the Eloy Detention Center in Pinal County/AZPM
Where do the tens of thousands of people in Arizona’s prisons fit in redistricting?
As Arizona prepares to redraw the boundaries of its political districts, some argue stuffing districts with prisons can be its own kind of gerrymandering.
By Andrew Oxford | Arizona Public Media
Stretching from Eloy to Florence and Globe, Legislative District 8 includes some of the biggest prisons in Arizona.
New census data analyzed Arizona Public Media shows about 22,000 of the district’s residents are behind bars — far more than in any other legislative district.
In all, the census counted about 64,000 people in prisons, detention centers and correctional facilities across the state. About one-third of them are in Pinal County.
As Arizona prepares to redraw the boundaries of its political districts, criminal justice watchdogs argue that stuffing some districts with prisons can be its own sort of gerrymandering.
“Each person is supposed to have kind of an equal say in their government and have equal representation in their government. But what happens with prison gerrymandering when someone is counted as a resident of a prison instead of their home district, when districts are drawn, it gives extra representation to individuals who live close to prisons,” said Michael Wessler, of the Prison Policy Initiative.
The group argues prisons inflate the size of rural districts by adding people from other parts of the state who generally cannot vote.