Bill would change how inmates are counted for redistricting

March 10, 2021 GMT

Connecticut lawmakers are considering a bill that would change the way prisoners are treated during this year’s redrawing of state legislative districts lines.

Currently, those incarcerated in the state are counted as members of the community in which they are imprisoned.

But minority advocates say that because the majority of prisoners are Black or Latino, that system serves to strip power from the urban and minority communities where they are from in favor of the mostly rural and white areas where the prisons are located.

The problem is referred to as prison-based gerrymandering and public hearing is scheduled Wednesday afternoon to discuss whether those prisoners should instead be counted as members of their home community.

Connecticut, like other states, is in the process of redrawing district lines following the 2020 census. And the federal Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of the towns where they are confined.

“To live by our core ideals, Connecticut must end the racist and undemocratic practice of prison gerrymandering,” said Claudine Fox, the interim public policy and advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut

Ten states have enacted laws requiring that prisoners be counted as residents of their home towns, advocates said.

Garry Monk, a member of the he NAACP Connecticut State Conference from New Haven, was among those who submitted testimony for Wednesday’s public hearing supporting the change.

Monk said his nephew spent time in prison in Enfield, but was always part of the community in New Haven, where he returned after serving his time.

“He was not supported by the residents living immediately outside the walls of the prison, nor was he in contact with them, “ Monk wrote. ”It was an insult for him to be counted there as if he were a member of that community. ”

Monk was part of a federal lawsuit that challenged the state policy. The plaintiffs later withdrew that lawsuit in favor of seeking a legislative solution.

Lawmakers from districts where the prisons are located have argued that their communities deserve additional resources to support those institutions. They have said it is no different than counting students as members of a university community.