Opposition to returning prison-based gerrymandering to New York

Opposition is heard as some state legislators file suit to force prison-based gerrymandering on all New York State residents.

by Aleks Kajstura, April 7, 2011

As the Prison Policy Initiative, Demos, Common Cause/NY, and the Brennan Center publish press releases responding to the lawsuit that seeks to return the practice of prison-based gerrymandering to New York, the press coverage is well on its way. Here is a sampling of recent news coverage of the developments:

The BedStuy Patch’s GOP State Senators File Law Suit Against Jeffries’s Prisoner Counting Law provides some background. Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries is quoted speaking against the suit:

“This lawsuit represents a transparent attempt to breathe life into the prison industrial complex, in order to exploit the continued criminalization of individuals who disproportionally come from low-income, urban communities of color….”

The Watertown Daily Times notes:

Opponents of that 2010 law call it unconstitutional gerrymandering. Supporters say that doing anything otherwise would be unconstitutional gerrymandering.

Interestingly, a majority of the local governments with prisons in the districts represented by the complaining legislators actually exclude the prison populations when redrawing their own districts. These State legislators are working to force their own constituents to engage in prison-based gerrymandering against their will.

And although the law does not change funding distributions – only how prison populations are used in redistricting – the discussion inevitably steers toward money. Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, an original co-sponsor of the bill explains why talk of funding would be irrelevant anyway:

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