Court Rejects Prison-Based Gerrymandering Lawsuit!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | December 2, 2011

Media Contact: Ramon Velasquez, (347) 683-6747 / Sean Barry, (646) 373-3344, sean@vocal-ny.org

Formerly Incarcerated Activists Praise New York State Supreme Court Decision Rejecting Prison-Based Gerrymandering Lawsuit

Statement by VOCAL-NY leader Ramon Velasquez. 

(Ramon was incarcerated in Attica during the 2000 Census count and subsequent legislative redistricting. Ramon helped lead VOCAL-NY’s successful grassroots campaign to end prison-based gerrymandering in 2010.  Represented by the Brennan Center for Justice and other co-counsel, VOCAL-NY applied for intervener status in response to the lawsuit but was not allowed to participate due to a lower court decision.)

“The judge’s decision today is clear – no more excuses or delays.  It’s time for LATFOR to stop their partisan bickering and implement the law ending prison-based gerrymandering.

The politicians behind this lawsuit fought reform because they benefitted from the status quo.  Counting inmates as constituents helped them win seats in districts that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

Prison-based gerrymandering hurt families like mine who had a loved one incarcerated.  Under the old rules, your vote counted less if you lived in a community with high rates of incarceration, and your vote counted more if you lived in a county with a prison.   That’s not fair and thankfully now it’s illegal.

There’s no reason to count inmates where they’re incarcerated.  Inmates don’t mingle with the community outside the walls of the prison.  They don’t use local services. They don’t have the same kinds of interests.  In fact, far too long prison-based gerrymandering encouraged politicians to advocate for policies that meant locking up more people because it helped them keep their seats.

The vast majority of inmates aren’t doing life sentences – they’re coming home. And now that’s now where they’ll be counted.”

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VOCAL-NY is a grassroots organization building power among low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, mass incarceration and the war on drugs to build health and just communities.

 

Blog, Civil Rights, Economy & Democracy, Press Release, Prison & Parole

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