Deep in the budget bill that the state Senate passed on a narrow, party line vote this week is a provision that would require New York’s prison inmates to be counted among the population of the communities where they are originally from, rather than where they are incarcerated, says the Albany Times-Union in an editorial. There will be no more prison-based gerrymandering if Governor David Paterson signs, as he’s expected to, a bill approved by the Assembly that removes inmates from the population count used to draw state legislative districts.
New York has enough inmates (about 58,000) in enough prisons (67) that their presence can alter the balance of power in the state legislature. About two-thirds of those inmates are from New York City. A disproportionate share of them are minorities. More than 90 percent of New York inmates are doing their time in prisons located upstate, a region that’s of course much more rural and much more white. A report by the NAACP concluded that seven state Senate districts created after the last redistricting, in 2002, would not have met federal population requirements. Six of those districts, as it happens, are represented by Republicans.