Activists: 'Prison-based gerrymandering' dilutes urban power

AP News
Posted: Feb 19, 2016 12:42 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Lawmakers from urban districts in Connecticut and Rhode Island are pushing bills to count inmates as residents of their home legislative districts rather than in the place where they are imprisoned.

They call the current practice "prison-based gerrymandering" that dilutes minority representation and takes power away from cities.

But the Rhode Island bill faces a powerful skeptic in Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, whose suburban Cranston district encompasses part of the state's big prison complex.

Mattiello says the state's 3,000 inmates should be counted in Cranston because they rely on the city's public services.

Proponents of changing how the population is counted for political districts say it's a matter of justice and fairness.

Maryland, Delaware, New York and California have made the change, and several other states have considered it.