In February of 2020, reporting by independent journalist Natasha Haverty and her team of O’Brien student interns helped produce an investigation into the practice of “prison gerrymandering.”
The story aired on National Public Radio, in an episode of Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Haverty reported how state prisoners are counted in the census: prisoners are counted as residents of the place they are incarcerated, not where they call home, and this data goes into how political districts are drawn. Haverty and her team based their investigation in Wisconsin, where they uncovered some striking examples of how this way of counting people shapes political districts.
The “prison-based gerrymandering” happening within Wisconsin and around the country has reshaped our democracy, she reported, affecting political representation and the distribution of power and resources.
Haverty’s report also talks about the personal impact on families separated from their loved ones by prison walls and town borders.
Marquette students Lucie Sullivan, Robyn DiGiacinto, and Claire Hyman aided in the research on prison gerrymandering, from data collection to recording interviews out in the field.
Haverty’s work was also supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
Work published to date:
Feb. 1, 2020
Don’t Count on the Census
WORT Podcast - A Public Affair
WUWM Podcast - Lake Effect
"Some people think this is all about federal dollars. It’s not… It’s about how power is distributed within the state.”
"So when it comes time for elections. I got a thousand residents that are locked up in that prison that can’t vote. But they still count in my district”
-Roy Granger, County Board of Supervisors
"If I see injustice in my neighborhood, calling out injustices like incarcerating black folks more often than you do anyone else. My way of dealing with that is to rally a group of people together to build momentum.”
-Cheryl, 53206 Resident