Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) sent a letter to urge the Rhode Island General Assembly’s Special Commission on Reapportionment to end the racially discriminatory and antidemocratic practice of prison-based gerrymandering when drawing its maps for this current redistricting cycle. Prison-based gerrymandering is the practice of counting incarcerated people at their prison locations, rather than their pre-incarceration homes, for redistricting purposes. The practice distorts representation that disproportionately impacts people of color, depriving communities of equal access to political representation. The practice artificially inflates the political power of predominantly white, rural districts where prisons are located.

Rhode Island provides a striking illustration of prison-based gerrymandering’s distorting effects on legislative redistricting maps. Rhode Island’s entire prison population is held in the Adult Correctional Institutions (“ACI”), a complex of seven correctional facilities located within a single square mile in the City of Cranston. Outside the prison walls, Cranston’s population is predominantly white. However, the majority of people who are imprisoned in the ACI are Black or Latino—about 30% of those serving sentences in the ACI are Black, and an additional 26% are Latino. Incarcerated people cannot use their temporary prison address to vote in local, state, or federal elections and those serving felony sentences cannot vote at all. Nonetheless, people incarcerated are counted as residents of Cranston, rather than their home communities. 

The letter urges the Commission to adjust 2020 Census data to reflect that currently incarcerated people are residents, both legally and practically, of their pre-incarceration homes—not the prisons where they were temporarily and involuntarily held on one day, Census day. This will help ensure fair and accurate representation for incarcerated people and their home communities, which otherwise suffer reduced political power compared with the rest of the state while jurisdictions that house prison facilities unfairly benefit from inflated political power.

Read the full letter here.


Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.