Maryland enacts law to count incarcerated people at their home addresses

First-in-nation law will improve fairness and accuracy of the Census data used for redistricting.

April 13, 2010

First-in-nation law will improve fairness and accuracy of the Census data used for redistricting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Peter Wagner, PPI, (413) 527-0845
Tim Rusch, Demos, 212 389-1407
Brenda Wright, Demos, 617 232 5885 ext. 13

April 13, 2010 – Today, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill ensuring that incarcerated persons will be counted as residents of their home addresses when new state and local legislative districts are drawn in Maryland.

The U.S. Census counts incarcerated people as residents of the prison location. When state and local government bodies use Census counts to draw legislative districts, they unintentionally enhance the weight of a vote cast in districts that contain prisons at the expense of all other districts in the state. Maryland is the first state to pledge to collect the home addresses of incarcerated people and correct the data state-wide.

The new law will help Maryland correct past distortions in representation caused by counting incarcerated persons as residents of prisons, such as the following:

  • 18% of the population currently credited to House of Delegates District 2B (near Hagerstown) is actually incarcerated people from other parts of the state. In effect, by using uncorrected Census data to draw legislative districts, the legislature granted every group of 82 residents in this districts as much political influence as 100 residents of every other district.
  • In Somerset County, a large prison is 64% of the 1st County Commission District, giving each resident in that district 2.7 times as much influence as residents in other districts. Even more troubling is that by including the prison population as “residents” in county districts, the county has been unable to draw an effective majority-African American district and has had no African-American elected to county government, despite settlement of a vote dilution lawsuit in the 1980s.

The problem is national as well. One legislative district in New York includes 7% prisoners; a legislative district in Texas includes 12% prisoners; and 15% of one Montana district are prisoners imported from other parts of the state. Indeed, the 2010 Census will find five times as many people in prison as it did just three decades ago. To address this problem, eight other states have similar bills pending in the current session or being prepared for reintroduction in the next legislative session: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

“The Maryland legislature has taken a much-needed step to ensure fairness in redistricting and reflect incarcerated populations in a more accurate way. Maryland’s action should pave the way for other states to end the distortions caused by counting incarcerated persons in the wrong place,” said Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative.

“Maryland’s ‘No Representation without Population’ Act will bring the state’s redistricting practices in line with the rules Maryland uses for determining legal residence of incarcerated persons for other purposes. We applaud this common-sense solution to a growing problem of fairness in representation,” said Brenda Wright, Director of the Democracy Program at Demos.

The legislation, passed as H.B. 496 and S.B.400, applies only to redistricting and would not affect federal funding distributions.

The Prison Policy Initiative and Demos have a national project to end prison-based gerrymandering, seeking to change how the U.S. Census counts incarcerated people and how states and local governments use prison counts when drawing districts. The two groups provided technical assistance to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland and the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland who led this effort.

In addition, Mr. Wagner and Ms. Wright both testified in support of Maryland’s new law at legislative hearings this spring. Their testimony pointed out that HB496/SB400 has precedent in the practice of more than 100 rural counties around the country that currently revise the Census Bureau’s prison counts for internal districting purposes, and in the laws of states such as Kansas that adjust the Census for other purposes.

PPI and Demos long have advocated for the Census Bureau to change its practices so that incarcerated persons would be counted at their home residences on a nationwide basis. While it is too late for that change to be made for the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau’s recent decision to accelerate the release of its prison count data so that states can more readily identify prison populations in the Census will be helpful to states such as Maryland that wish to make their own adjustments.

PPI and Demos applaud the lead sponsors of the legislation, Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Senator Catherine Pugh, who deserve special credit for their leadership on this issue. Although both represent legislative districts that contain large prison populations currently counted as part of their districts, both recognized that the issue of fairness and accuracy in statewide redistricting should take precedence over individual concerns. PPI and Demos are also encouraged by the bi-partisan support for the bill including that of Republican Senators J. Lowell Stoltzfus and Donald F. Munson.

36 Responses

  1. […] » Kudos to the Maryland legislature for showing national leadership on this important issue! From the Prison Policy Initiative: April 13, 2010 – Today, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill ensuring that […]

  2. […] In Somerset County, a large prison is 64% of the 1st County Commission District, giving each resident in that district 2.7 times as much influence as residents in other districts. Even more troubling is that by including the prison population as “residents” in county districts, the county has been unable to draw an effective majority-African American district and has had no African-American elected to county government, despite settlement of a vote dilution lawsuit in the 1980s. Read complete story at Prisoners of the Census […]

  3. […] passed a law yesterday that fixes a major problem. Maryland will now count people in prison where they actually live, not where they are confined. This first-in-the-nation law will improve the fairness and accuracy […]

  4. This is a crock.

    First of all, they’re using the last known address of the prisoner. What they don’t tell you is that prisoners usually lose their residence, be it a rental or leased domicile. It’s kind of hard for a guy in prison to make his rent payment.

    Second of all, if the prisoner leaves family behind, maybe they don’t want him back. Let’s say that Joe Blow ran over a family of five while driving drunk down a county road with fifty pounds of weed in the back of a stolen car. And, let’s say, he wasn’t cutting anyone in on this action. Do you really think they want him back? Why count his residence as being “his” (or hers, of course) when they don’t want him to move back in?

    Third, what about a person serving a life sentence? Realistically, you get life in Maryland, you’re back out in, what? Six months to a year? Why shouldn’t a life sentence in a facility count as being where you’re going to spend the rest of your life?

    I guess I don’t get it.

  5. […] the state of Maryland became a pioneer by signing into law that they would count those incarcerated in their home […]

  6. The Census and Democracy: Maryland Fixes a Major Error…

    In the wake of the 2010 Census, Maryland passed a law yesterday that fixes a major problem. Maryland will now count people in prison where they actually live, not where they are confined. This first-in-the-nation law will improve the fairness and accur…

  7. The Case of Cranston’s Phantom Prison Constituents | Pursuances says:

    […] in their redistricting process. About 100 counties around the country also do the same. Meanwhile yesterday, Maryland became the first state in the nation to pass a law mandating that people in prison get […]

  8. Peter Wagner says:

    @Norman Rogers — Regarding Points 1 and 2, under state law, incarcerated people remain residents of their pre-incarcetion addresses. The state is merely making sure that the redistricting data matches with state law.

    For your third point, most people in prison are serving relatively short sentences of just a few years, so your example is far from typical. But here, for most purposes, those folks would still be considered for other state law purposes to be residents of their pre-incarceration homes.

    But here’s the problem: Should some people in Somerset County get almost 3 times as much influence in the county commission as other residents of the county just because they happen to live next to the prison. That’s not right; and that’s why the local paper supported the bill, and why the bill received support from some of the local elected officials. Basing districts on populations counted in the wrong place isn’t fair.

  9. Jim H says:

    Anybody see a resemblance to counting prisoners in their prisons — though not allowing them to vote, in almost all cases — to the counting of slaves as 3/5 of a person for these purposes? Just asking.

  10. John Davis says:

    This is absurd, these people dont have the right to vote and if they do have the right that is as absurd! They shouldnt be counted at all!! They are in Prison! And like the gentlemen stated above. They have no actuall address! Unless they can provide two utility bills with there name on them they live in prison!

  11. No, I don’t see the point. The census is a once in ten years snapshot; most people are incarcerated for periods of less than ten years. Hence, it doesn’t take into account a completely accurate view of incarcerations. If you happen to be in jail when they take the census, you’re counted one way. If you get out before the census, you’re not counted the way they should count you under the law, especially if you are a habitual offender who goes back to prison.

  12. Jay says:

    Let´s stop pretending that congressmen listen to their constituents. Let´s read between the lines. This is more smokescreening. What is the real difference for a person with ¨3x the influence? 3×0 = 0

  13. […] have pledged to count incarcerated people at home for districting purposes. The states of New York, Maryland and Delaware will be figuring out where incarcerated people in their states come from, and when the […]

  14. […] choice. This was the situation in Somerset County, Maryland, a situation which will be remedied by Maryland’s new law, which ensures that incarcerated individuals will be counted as residents of their home addresses in […]

  15. […] seen tremendous progress. First of all, Maryland, you know, passed its legislation to correct for prison-based gerrymandering, which is fantastic. […]

  16. […] gerrymandering and ensure fair representation for all of its residents. In the past year, Maryland, Delaware, and New York have all passed bills outlawing prison-based gerrymandering; similar bills […]

  17. […] Pena-Melnyk recognized the problem of prison-based gerrymandering and were the lead sponsors of the successful 2010 legislation that ended prison-based gerrymandering in […]

  18. […] Pena-Melnyk recognized the problem of prison-based gerrymandering and were the lead sponsors of the successful 2010 legislation that ended prison-based gerrymandering in […]

  19. […] national trend towards correcting the miscount of incarcerated persons in redistricting. New York, Maryland and Delaware all passed legislation to end prison-based gerrymandering last […]

  20. […] In an interview with Gloria Minott this morning on WPFM, PPI’s Executive Director Peter Wagner offered some clarifications about the Fletcher v. Lamone lawsuit filed to repeal the No Representation Without Population Act that ended prison-based gerrymandering in Maryland. […]

  21. […] a federal three-judge panel rejected a lawsuit seeking to overturn Maryland’s landmark “No Representation Without Population Act” which counts incarcerated people as residents of their legal home addresses for […]

  22. Robert A says:

    Seems to be a lot of if’s regarding the recording eligibility of those serving time with respect to their place of residence. I think that a person ought to be counted based on their last known residence. From a Representative perspective it seems to penalize Americans who do not commit crimes against society. What we rally are talking about is the peoples voice and it ought to reflect the make up of the people. The county of sentence should be where the incarcerated persons census data is recorded in the event a last known address is not available.

    I also agree that a person sentenced to life ought to have their census data recorded at the county he will serve his life sentence

    ayalatax.com

  23. […] New York Times editorial board praised a Federal District Court’s decision to uphold the 2010 law that ended prison-based gerrymandering in Maryland. The law had been challenged by plaintiffs in […]

  24. […] 2011, four states passed legislation ending prison-based gerrymandering within their borders. The Maryland and New York laws are already in effect and have been upheld by the courts. We’re also making […]

  25. […] 2011, four states passed legislation ending prison-based gerrymandering within their borders. The Maryland and New York laws are already in effect and have been upheld by the courts. We’re also making […]

  26. […] a huge concentration of prisons in the western portion of the state. But in 2010, Maryland was the first state to pass legislation counting incarcerated people at home for redistricting […]

  27. […] U.S. Supreme Court meets today to decide whether it will hear a case challenging Maryland‘s first-in-the-nation law ending prison-based gerrymandering. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce on Monday whether or not it will hear the case. If […]

  28. […] The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of Maryland’s groundbreaking “No Representation Without Population Act,” which counts incarcerated people as residents of their legal home addresses for […]

  29. […] 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 […]

  30. […] that had never elected an African American to county office may soon elect two, thanks to the Maryland law that ended prison-based gerrymandering. Although Somerset County Maryland contains a sizable African-American population, first slavery, […]

  31. […] conference, the early release of the prison count data was essential to the implementation of Maryland and New York‘s laws that counted incarcerated people at home. And at that meeting, I shared […]

  32. […] that approval. Or maybe the North Carolina General Assembly will pass legislation – like Maryland and New York, have – mandating that state and local governments draw election districts based […]

  33. […] would need to be revised before the state could implement a legislative solution as New York or Maryland have done. As the resolution observes, …the simplest solution to the conflict between federal […]

  34. […] The proposed bill would require that incarcerated people be reallocated to their home addresses in the data used for Rhode Island’s next reapportionment cycle (much like the bills that were passed and successfully implemented in New York and Maryland). […]

  35. […] and the Norwich Bulletin have called on the legislature to pass legislation like that in New York, Maryland, Delaware, and California to ensure that the Census Bureau’s method of tabulating prison […]

  36. […] other states — New York, Maryland, Delaware, and California — have already passed similar legislation, and Maryland’s bill was […]



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