The Campaign to End Prison-Based Gerrymandering in New York got a big start with a press conference and meeting in New York City today. Please add other news stories and videos to the comments and I’ll edit this post. These are the first 5 items:
Inmate census rule criticized Bill proposes counting prisoners in their home communities instead of where they’re jailed, by Bryan Fitzgerald, Albany Times-Union, january 29, 2010
We recently updated our list of legislative efforts to end prison-based gerrymandering, and drafted two different types of model legislation. One model creates a system for restoring the state’s incarcerated population to its correct location, and the second is an interim strategy to prevent districts with prisons from using the prison population to enhance their influence beyond their numbers.
Senator Eric T. Schneiderman Will Introduce Bill to Change How New York Uses Census Prisoner Counts
New York, NY–Community groups and advocates from across New York will rally on the steps of City Hall Thursday in support of new legislation to end the undemocratic system of prison-based gerrymandering. Supporters will be joined by Senator Schneiderman to seek an amendment to the State Election Law regarding how incarcerated individuals are counted for the purposes of legislative districting.
This is a critical step in a major statewide effort to pass legislation that will count prisoners as residents of their home counties, rather than as residents of the counties in which they are incarcerated. The current system for counting people in prison drastically inflates populations in some communities, while diluting the political representation of the home communities and violating the democratic principle of “one person, one vote.”
Restoring the democratic right of representation to all New York communities is especially urgent now that the 2010 Census is underway and new legislative districts will be drawn in 2012.
WHO: Community groups and advocates, Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and Elected Officials; Steven Carbo from leading coalition member Demos, a national policy center, will moderate.
While it is important that everyone be counted in the Census for reasons of both democracy and funding, I’ve long argued that where incarcerated people are counted has only a very minor affect on funding.
On Saturday, New York Senator Eric Schneiderman and I discussed the Prison Census Adjustment Act pending in the state legislature on WBAI’s On the Count The Prison & Criminal Justice Report with Eddie Ellis. You can listen to the 26 minute program online.
The Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of the prisons, not of their home addresses, and that creates a big problem for legislative redistricting.
In two [PDF] of Oneida County’s 29 county legislative districts, a third or more of the population is not local residents but incarcerated people from elsewhere in the state. This gives every group of 62-67 people in the prison districts as much political influence in the county as 100 people elsewhere in the county.
According to the article, the County Executive, the county’s Majority Leader (who himself represents a prison district), and a second legislator each said they were unaware that New York State law gives counties the discretion to choose the population base used for redistricting and that they could choose to draw districts without the prison populations. Each supported the idea of correcting the Census, and framed the issue as a question of fair and equal representation.
Ms. Fusco also interviewed the Census Bureau’s Deputy Regional Director, Bruce Kaminski. He explained why the Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of the prison, but:
When asked whether it’s fair to districts that have prisons compared with those that don’t, he wouldn’t say.
“We do not make that determination whether it’s fair or unfair,” he said.