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Advocates Look To End Prison Gerrymandering In Connecticut

Prison cells
Courtesy of Pixabay

In Connecticut, prison inmates are counted in the voting district where they’re incarcerated, not the place they call home. It’s called prison gerrymandering. Some criminal justice advocates want to change that.

Garry Monk is a veteran’s advocate and a member of the Connecticut NAACP. He lives in New Haven, but he has a family member in prison in Enfield, Connecticut.

“We were supporting him, putting money on his books, ensuring that he had what he needed, his total welfare, his well-being. But yet, the town that he’s in is getting the benefit of him being there. It was a smack in the face,” Monk said.

Monk was a plaintiff on a 2019 lawsuit to end the practice.

“The injustices of gerrymandering is enormous. It’s robbery in the greatest sense of the word,” Monk said.

That lawsuit was withdrawn last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the NAACP, the ACLU and a Yale law clinic are backing a bill to overturn the practice through the legislature. Alex Boudreau is a Yale law intern. He said the practice is doubly unfair to incarcerated people.

“They’re counted in these prison communities that they have no real contact with. So they don’t have meaningful representation. And it harms the communities that they’re from, because they’re not counting toward the political power that those places ought to have,” Boudreau said.

Ten other states, including New York, have overturned the practice. And Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has publicly supported the bill to ban it in Connecticut. But it’s been proposed before and didn’t pass.

Boudreau said it’s important to pass it this session — before the state begins redistricting according to the 2020 census later this year.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.