Morning Read: NYS inmate count headed to court?

It matters a lot how and where you count prison inmates in New York state.

With tens of thousands of prisoners behind bars, the accounting could affect redistricting and political power — especially in a year when lawmakers are already wrestling with the results of last year’s Census.

This from the Watertown Daily Times.

Senate Republicans are mulling a federal lawsuit to challenge counting prisoners as residents at their previous known address — often New York City — instead of the facility where they’re locked up — often upstate.

Most Democrats support counting inmates by their home residences — a policy that would benefit and boost political power in districts in New York City and Long Island.

But North Country lawmakers, even Democrats, see this very differently.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, a Theresa Democrat, also opposes counting inmates from their last known address.

“Prisons are a cost to the local community,” she said. “Prisoners go back and forth on our roads, they use our local healthcare system, they use the services in the area. If they want to be counted at home, they shouldn’t have done something to be incarcerated.”

So what do you think?  Are the non-voting inmates living in the North Country part of our political culture?  Is this a power-grab by Republicans?

Or is counting prisoners at the location of their correctional facility a fair, common sense way to do things?

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12 Comments on “Morning Read: NYS inmate count headed to court?”

  1. Bret4207 says:

    I certainly wouldn’t call it a “power grab” by either No Co Repubs of NYC Dems. IMO, they can;t vote, don’t pay taxes here and most have no desire to stay here. Count them at their permanent address or maybe don’t count them at all.

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  2. Bret4207 says:

    Whoops, No Co Repubs OR NYS Dems.

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  3. IF (important modifier) they keep their word and redistrict base d on regions without regard to political party registrations then counting the prisoners would draw the line a bit further South than if we didn’t count them. The number of districts for the state will be the same either way. How much difference in the location of that line are we talking about? Does the lower half of the Adirondacks suddenly become “downstate” if the prisoners are counting downstate?

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  4. TomL says:

    Philosophically it is perplexing. Prisoners, like all citizens, have a right to representation – even if they have lost the right to vote for it. In that sense, they should be counted with their home communities. It is their home community representatives who will advocate for needs of the families of the incarcerated, the incarcerated, and the victims of the crimes caused by the incarcerated. In the case of, say, unfair drug laws or unequal enforcement of the law, it is the home-community representatives that will make the case. Or conversely, it is the home community representatives that may advocate for stricter enforcement and sentencing to reduce the level of crime in the community. The fact that a relatively large number of members of a community are incarcerated should not weaken a communities political power.

    On the other side, prisoners are using the prison community’s services. And it is the political representatives in the region of the prison that will advocate for better facilities, better staffing, better resources for visiting families of the incarcerated, etc. So from that perspective, the incarcerated should be counted in their prison location.

    I am a bit uncertain, and am convinced that there are valid arguments both ways, but it seems to me the balance goes to the home community of the incarcerated

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  5. Pete Klein says:

    TomL,
    If you don’t have the right to vote, how can you expect to be represented by those who are elected?
    Also, I would question the idea of prisoners using the prison community’s services. I would argue that prisoners are not interested in using whatever services the “community” might offer and would prefer not to be there in the first place.
    I must side with Bret on this one. It would make more sense to let/require all members of the military to vote where they happen to be stationed than to allow them to vote by absentee ballots since they really do use many of the local community services.

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  6. mervel says:

    How are students at our universities counted?

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  7. Brian says:

    “If you don’t have the right to vote, how can you expect to be represented by those who are elected?”

    So kids aren’t represented by elected officials?

    It flies in the face of every manipulative politician who screams “do it for the children!”

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  8. Brian says:

    Far be it from me to want conservative areas to have more power, but the whole purpose of the census is to count people WHERE THEY RESIDE on a particular date (I believe April 1st of years ending in 0). The census is a snapshot of the nation on a specific date. On that date, prisoners reside in the town of the prison in question.

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  9. Pete Klein says:

    Brian,
    If it is a snap shot of where someone resides on a particular day, there shouldn’t be any absentee ballots.

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  10. Fred Goss says:

    Brian is right about the census. Last year it worked very hard in SLC to count the students at the 4 colleges “here” where they were living April 1, not wherever their
    “permanent” residence might be.

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  11. oa says:

    “If it is a snap shot of where someone resides on a particular day, there shouldn’t be any absentee ballots.”
    Not to get all BYU thread on you, Pete, but you’re talking about two different things. Residency in terms of the census and voter registration on a particular date don’t always perfectly dovetail. That’s why there’s this debate in the first place, which as it continues, inevitably starts to creep toward, “only landed gentry should have the right to vote, like in the good old days.”
    The franchise for all citizens over 18, I say.

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  12. Pete Klein says:

    I would prefer that the voting franchise be from 18 to 65. I would also be in favor of limiting the time you can hold public office to 65. This is would include appointed officials such as members of the Supreme Court.

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