Author: SAM ROBERTS
Date: Oct 24, 2008
Source: New York Times (NY)
Concerns about so-called prison-based gerrymandering have grown as the number of
inmates around the nation has ballooned. Similar disparities have been identified in upstate New York, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
Critics say the census should count prisoners in the district where they lived before they were incarcerated.
In 2006, experts commissioned by the Census Bureau recommended that the agency study whether prison inmates should be counted in 2010 as residents of the mostly urban neighborhoods where they last lived rather than as residents of the mostly rural districts where they are temporarily housed against their will.
"With only one exception nationwide," Mr. Wagner said, "every time a community learns that prison populations are distorting their access to local government, the legislature has reversed course and redrawn districts based on actual population, not the Census Bureau's mistakes."
The sole exception he cited is St. Lawrence County in upstate New York. ...
"In New York and several other states, the regional transfer of a minority population does have a representational impact," said Prof. Nathan Persily, director of the Center on Law and Politics at Columbia Law School. "There's no reason why a community ought to gain representation because of a large, incarcerated, nonvoting population."
Prof. James A. Gardner of the University at Buffalo Law School, said that because "prisoners don't want to be there, leave at the first opportunity, and
there's no chance they can vote, it is taking advantage of a completely inert
population for the purpose of sneaking out extra political power."
The Prison Policy Initiative found 21 counties across the country where at least one in five people, according to the Census Bureau's count, were actually inmates from another county.
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