Prison Radio
Omar Askia Ali

My name is Omar Askia Ali AKA Edward Sistrunk. I’m housed in Coal Township. My subject matter is prison-based gerrymandering.

An article in the new Pittsburgh Courier, December the 2nd, quotes the Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wessel stating that he stopped the longstanding policy of shipping inmates to facilities far from their homes when studied data revealed that it hindered family visits and increased recidivism.

According to the Pennsylvania state constitution, counting prisoners living in areas that aren’t their residence is illegal. According to a 2009 study by the Prison Policy Initiative, blacks are 9.8 times as likely to be in prison as white people, but a disproportionate number of state and federal prisons are located in counties that have a larger proportion of whites than the state has a whole.

In 2010, Maryland became the first state to pass a law requiring that prisoners be counted in their own districts, adding an estimated 12,000 Baltimoreans to the city’s official population. Pennsylvania should follow suit. There are eight legislative districts in Pennsylvania that would be legally small were it not for prisoners. The transfer of electric- or electoral power from city to country, from black to white, makes a mockery of the one person, one vote principle. Philadelphia’s growing political laws in rural Pennsylvania is ill-gotten gains.

The counting of prisons where they are incarcerated violates the state’s voter registration status that no individual who’s confined and a penal institution should be deemed that residents of the electoral- electoral district where the institution is located. The individual should be deemed to reside where the individual was last registered before being confined in the penal institution, or if there was no registration prior to confinement, the individual should be deemed to reside at the last-known address before confined.

For more information about prison-based gerrymandering, see the newsletter at or contact Peter Wagner at

Thank you very much.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.