RI seeks to change how jail inmates counted for residency
by Peter Wagner, March 14, 2010
John Hill of the Providence Journal reports:
A group of Providence legislators have introduced bills that would change how the state counts inmates at the Adult Correctional Institutions, allocating them toward the towns they lived in before sentencing rather than as residents of Cranston, the home of the state’s prison complex.
“It’s all about fairness,” said Rep. Joseph S. Almeida, D-Providence, primary sponsor of the house version of the plan. “These folks come from districts around the state and will be returning to them upon release.”
As introduced, the bills wouldn’t affect how the U.S. Census Bureau counts ACI inmates, but it would change how the state uses the numbers. The idea is that each facility that incarcerates people for crimes, including mental institutions, would submit a list of all people they were holding on the day of the census and their last addresses before incarceration.
The secretary of state would then take those lists, subtract the numbers from the populations of the sites of the facilities — in the case of the ACI, Cranston — and then add them to the prisoners’ home towns. Those revised population figures would then be used in deciding how to apportion voters in state and local districts.
Rhode Island has two house districts and one state senate district that contain prisons. And one of those representatives sees an upside to not claiming incarcerated people as constituents:
One of the representatives of a district that could lose population if the bill were passed, Rep. Nicholas A. Mattiello, D-Cranston, the house majority leader, said he didn’t see a problem with it.
“It’s a non-issue,” Mattiello said. “Either way, it’s fine for me.”
Mattiello said the only major effect he could foresee was that his district might get a bit larger geographically to recoup the lost ACI inmates. As a legislator, he said he didn’t think that would be a problem because the area around the ACI is fairly consistent demographically and wouldn’t create any new issues he would have to confront.
“I’d be happy to have more people who can actually vote for me,” he said.
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