Capitol Tonight Interview with New York Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries

NY Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries explains the importance of moving forward with implementation of NY law that ended prison-based gerrymandering.

by Leah Sakala, August 18, 2011

I just came across a great interview on Capital Tonight with Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn).

In this interview, Assemblyman Jeffries talks in detail about New York’s 2010 law that ended prison-based gerrymandering, explaining how it was passed and why it’s critical for New York’s democracy. He states that the law, “rectified one of the most significant civil rights wrongs that had been taking place in the state of New York,” and criticized the group of legislators who are seeking to overturn it in court with Little v. LATFOR.

I was particularly struck by Assemblyman Jeffries’ observation that in any significant legislative victory for fairness and equality, the implementation stage can be the most difficult to navigate. He points to the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision as a historic illustration of the need to move forward with “deliberate speed” in enacting policy that affirms civil rights.

Although the Little v. LATFOR lawsuit presents a potential challenge to the law, civil rights advocates are making steady progress towards ensuring that prison-based gerrymandering stays out of New York. The Prison Policy Initiative and six other civil rights organizations will represent the fifteen New York voters who were recently admitted to the lawsuit in order to protect their votes from being distorted by a return to prison-based gerrymandering. Meanwhile, the the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) is moving forward with the redistricting process in accordance with the law, reapportioning incarcerated individuals to their home addresses for the purposes of redistricting.

The bottom line is that the New York law ending prison-based gerrymandering is, as Assemblyman Jeffries explains, “a sound law, both constitutionally, from the perspective of the manner in which it was done, as well as substantively in terms of rectifying a clear injustice.”

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