Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Counting Incarcerated New Yorkers

Yesterday, the New York Times editorial page cheered the fact that thirteen New York counties that exclude from redistricting counts prisoners housed within their boundaries. This information comes from the newest report by the Prison Policy Initiative, a group that has long advocated allocating prisoners to their last known address for purposes of representation and distribution of federal, state, and local resources.

We wholeheartedly agree with the Times and PPI. By counting prisoners as residents of their current locales instead of their home communities, New York unfairly inflates the power of prison towns. In effect, since incarcerated people are disenfranchised, the votes of citizens in towns that house prisons are worth more than those of citizens who reside in other areas.

New York State should pass legislation to either exclude prisoners altogether from redistricting data or, better yet, collect information on prisoner's last known address and count them in their home communities.

Read more about the need to change the way incarcerated people are counted in the census here.

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