Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Supreme Court ruling fuels state efforts to end prison-based gerrymandering

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Peter Wagner <pwagner@prisonpolicy.org>
Date: Tue, Jul 10, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Subject: Supreme Court ruling fuels state efforts to end prison-based gerrymandering
To: "bigdaddybees@gmail.com" <bigdaddybees@gmail.com>

You are receiving this email because you signed up on our site or because you met Peter Wagner at a conference and asked to be subscribed.

Not interested anymore? Unsubscribe. Want to share it? Forward to a friend. Having trouble viewing this email? View it in your browser. To ensure delivery, add pwagner@prisonpolicy.org to your address book. If you need help, see our instructions.

Prisoners of the Census news
for the week of July 10

The 2010 Census counted more than
2 million people in the wrong place.
How will your vote suffer?


Hartford Courant wants to see an end to prison-based gerrymandering

Main Content Inline Small

by Leah Sakala

The Hartford Courant is cheering the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Maryland law ending prison-based gerrymandering. In a recent editorial, the paper called on the Connecticut Legislature to follow Maryland's lead by passing legislation to count incarcerated people at their home addresses for redistricting purposes.

As the editorial proclaimed:

Though it fell in a rather busy week and didn't grab much attention, another Supreme Court decision last week should have ramifications for Connecticut. The ruling affirmed the constitutionality of a Maryland law that counts incarcerated persons as residents of their last legal home addresses, not the prisons, for redistricting purposes.

This is the fairer way to do it. The decision should be an impetus for Connecticut to follow suit.

Prisoners are counted in the locality of the prison here and in most states, which is an accident of history. When the census began more than two centuries ago, it didn't much matter where inmates were counted because relatively few people were in prison and the prisons and jails were often in the same town where the prisoner lived. But the burst of prison building and mass incarceration in the latter part of the 20th century changed the landscape. Now there are many more people in prisons that are most often in other municipalities.

Connecticut has a head start on ending prison-based gerrymandering, with an active campaign already in place. Although the effort in the previous legislative session was unsuccessful, the Courant editorial points out why it must be a priority for the next legislative session:

Next year it should pass. The current system tends to dilute the political power of urban areas, where the majority of inmates come from, in favor of suburban towns that happen to have prisons. Remember that most prisoners cannot vote. So if, say, 15 percent of a district is made up of inmates, then the remaining 85 percent of the district's population has the same political muscle as 100 percent of the people in a district with no prison. That would appear to violate the "one person, one vote" rule.

I note that Connecticut has been on a long march towards fairer redistricting for the last half a century. Fifty years ago, districts were apportioned in a way that gave the residents of some towns hundreds of times the influence of residents in the urban centers. Connecticut rightly fixed that injustice, and ending prison-based gerrymandering is the next logical step.

Also, since Maryland-style legislation counts incarcerated people at home for redistricting purposes only, the Connecticut legislature could end prison-based gerrymandering without worrying about inadvertently impacting funding formulas. Political power, not money, is at stake here.

In the end, as the editorial concludes, "The vast majority of inmates leave prison, and most go home. That's where they should be counted."

Back to top


Massachusetts Redistricting Committee plans ahead for 2021

by Leah Sakala

Even though the Massachusetts Special Joint Committee on Redistricting only last year released the new state legislative district maps, the members are already planning ahead for next decade. The Committee recently held a hearing to collect public feedback on the redistricting process in anticipation of their wrap-up report on how the redistricting process went and what they can improve for the next round of redistricting after the 2020 Census.

At the hearing, Prison Policy Initiative's Executive Director, Peter Wagner, presented testimony he co-authored with Brenda Wright of DÄ“mos that details what the legislature can do to prevent prison populations from distorting the redistricting process next time around. Committee Co-Chair Senator Stan Rosenberg has already pointed to the problem of prison-based gerrymandering as one of the main issues to resolve moving forward.

A provision of the Massachusetts Constitution made it difficult for the Massachusetts legislature to pass a bill ending prison-based gerrymandering like the ones in Maryland, New York, Delaware, and California. But now, the Massachusetts legislature has the time to take concrete action to make sure that prison-based gerrymandering doesn't continue to be a problem, and the Redistricting Committee's wrap-up report is a perfect opportunity to start taking proactive steps.

As the testimony explains, the best solution would be for the Census Bureau to count incarcerated people at their home addresses in the 2020 Census, ending the issue of prison-based gerrymandering nationwide. Massachusetts can send the message to the Census Bureau that change is needed by documenting the way prison-based gerrymandering distorts state legislative districts, and by enacting a bill or resolution calling on the Census Bureau to count incarcerated people at home.

Also, Massachusetts can consider revising the state constitution to allow the legislature to adjust Census data for redistricting purposes, ensuring that prison populations do not add additional unwarranted political clout to the districts that contain them.

Massachusetts's unique and forward-looking post-redistricting review process is a great opportunity to acknowledge and document the important progress that Committee on Redistricting has made towards ensuring fairness and transparency in the redistricting process. In addition to providing continuity over the decade between redistricting seasons, the report gives the legislature concrete goals to work towards for next time. With foresight and care, the current Massachusetts legislative districts can be the last ones that are distorted by the Census Bureau's prison count.

Back to top


Please support this work

The Prison Policy Initiative depends on the support of the people who receive this newsletter. If you can help support our work with a tax-deductible contribution via credit card, or with a paper check sent to the address below, please do so today.

In this issue

Other news

Wisconsinites buoyed by Supreme Court ruling on prison-based gerrymandering

A Wisconsin Pubic Radio story points out that the ruling from the highest court in the nation unquestionably affirming states' ability to adjust Census redistricting data gives the green light to states looking to end prison-based gerrymandering.

Common Cause says reform is a matter of racial justice

In a letter to the editor, Executive Director of Common Cause Connecticut Cheri Quickmire says the time to end prison-based gerrymandering is now.

Baltimore's AFRO covers U.S. Supreme Court victory

Maria Morales writes on the civil rights victory that was won when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Maryland's law ending prison-based gerrymandering.

Pennsylvania allays one side effect of Census Bureau's prison count

Governor Corbett signs law preventing the Census Bureau's prison count from resulting in small municipalities being unfairly forced to implement a curbside recycling system.

Forward to a friend

Prison Policy Initiative, PO Box 127, Northampton, Mass. 01027
http://www.prisonpolicy.org http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter @PrisonPolicy and via RSS.

You can unsubscribe instantly, update your address or share this with a friend.
If you received this message from a friend, you can subscribe online.


Posted via email from Brian's posterous

No comments: