Should inmates in Pa. prisons be counted as residents of the district the prison is in or in their home districts? Legislators disagree

Written by on September 22, 2021

Should inmates in Pa. prisons be counted as residents of the district the prison is in or in their home districts? Legislators disagree

By Sam Dunklau / WITF

September 22, 2021

Photo by Katherine Mcadoo, Unsplash

The five-member panel in charge of state legislative redistricting says several thousand state prisoners should be counted in the districts where they’re imprisoned.

Last month, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission took a big step to end what advocates call prison gerrymandering, where districts with state prisons get to have slightly more political clout.

They voted to count all prisoners, except for those from out of state and those serving life sentences, as residents of the districts where they lived before they were behind bars.

That excluded about 4,000 of the state’s 40,000 inmates.

But after another vote, 3,000 more who are expected to serve time until at least April of 2030 will also be excluded.

House Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) said the last group should not be lumped in:

“Unlike persons serving life sentences, however, people who are sentenced to 10 year minimums that will expire after April 1, 2030 may in fact be released before 2030.”

Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) disagreed.

“At a minimum, prisoners who will be incarcerated for the next 10-year redistricting cycle should be counted where they are located,” Ward said. 

Democrats on the panel pushed back, saying any of those people could be released before then for good behavior or after an appeal.

Meanwhile, data experts say the group won’t have what it needs to start drawing maps until at least mid-October.

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