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Shortly after the 2010 Census, states throughout the country will redraw the lines that determine how to divide the population of each state into electoral districts—a process called redistricting. The composition of a district affects election outcomes and determines representation at the federal, state, and local levels. In most states, redistricting is carried out by members of the legislature. But on the eve of the quickly approaching 2010 redistricting cycle, voters and elected officials in a number of states across the country are considering a range of proposals that aim to alter the redistricting process. One such proposal is to create Independent Redistricting Commissions (IRCs). An IRC is a committee composed of appointed officials who assume responsibility for redistricting within a state.
Criminal justice policy in the United States has for some time now spurned rehabilitation in favor of long and often permanent terms of incarceration, manifesting an overarching belief that there is no need to address root causes of crime and that many people who have committed crimes can never be anything but “criminals.” These policies have served to isolate and remove a massive number of people, a disproportionately large percentage of whom are people of color, from their communities and from participation in civil society.
Most state and local governments count incarcerated persons as residents of the prison communities where they are incarcerated when drawing election district lines, despite the fact that prisoners are not integrated into those communities and are not residents there.