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Monday, March 29, 2021
CT Moves Bill Forward to Abolish Prison Gerrymandering
The Connecticut State Conference of the NAACP (NAACP CT) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU CT) celebrated the historic approval on March 29, 2021, of S.B. 753, legislation to abolish prison gerrymandering, by the Connecticut General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections Committee. Guided by the leadership of co-chairs Senator Mae Flexer and Representative Dan Fox, the committee voted to advance the bill, with the final tally to come.
NAACP CT and ACLU CT are represented by the Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic (ROLC) at Yale Law School.
“It’s exciting to see this vital legislation move forward,” said Natasha Brunstein ’22, a law student intern with the ROLC. “By passing S.B. 753 this session, the General Assembly can ensure Connecticut’s redistricting process produces fair, constitutional maps for the next decade.”
This year, lawmakers have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to act on the issue of prison gerrymandering and to make Connecticut the 11th state to end prison gerrymandering, as the state’s 2021 redistricting process will determine legislative and congressional maps for the next decade. The bill now awaits action by Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney and Speaker of the House Matt Ritter to determine whether and when to bring S.B. 753 to a floor vote in each chamber.
“Prison gerrymandering disenfranchises Black communities and needs to end,” said Scot X. Esdaile, President of the NAACP CT. “I thank the members of the Government Administration and Elections Committee for supporting this historic legislation and I call on leadership in the General Assembly to bring S.B. 753 to the floor to pass it as soon as possible.”
Advocates argue that by counting incarcerated people where they are imprisoned for the purpose of redistricting — instead of their home communities — Connecticut denies incarcerated people meaningful representation. Prison gerrymandering inflates the power of the districts where prisons are located, which are predominantly white and rural, at the expense of the districts where incarcerated people reside, which are predominantly Black, Latinx, and urban, the supporters say. Ten states have already enacted legislation to end this practice, including New York, California, and New Jersey.
“Prison gerrymandering is racist and undemocratic and it’s long past time for Connecticut to join the ten other states that have abolished it,” said Claudine Fox, Interim Public Policy and Advocacy Director of the ACLU CT. “I’m encouraged that the General Assembly has taken this important step forward. We now need to get this bill over the finish line by passing S.B. 753 this session. Now that the legislation has been reported out of committee, we look forward to working with the NAACP CT and members of the General Assembly to ensure the bill is passed and sent to Governor Lamont’s desk in the coming weeks.”
The NAACP CT and ACLU CT have long supported ending prison gerrymandering, and in early March, both organizations launched a public campaign to abolish the practice. The bill currently has 20 co-sponsors, including longtime champions such as Senator Gary Winfield. Other elected officials and organizations across Connecticut have announced their support for legislation to end prison gerrymandering this session, including:
- Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill
- Treasurer Shawn T. Wooden
- Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
- League of Women Voters of Connecticut
- Common Cause in Connecticut
- Connecticut AFL-CIO
- SEIU 1199 NE
- Connecticut State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition
- Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (CONECT)
- Connecticut Voices for Children
- Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
- Campaign Legal Center
- LatinoJustice PRLDEF
- Hispanic Federation
- Prison Policy Initiative
In January, multiple legislators introduced legislation in the General Assembly to ban prison gerrymandering. The Government Administration and Elections Committee held a public hearing on S.B. 753 on March 10, 2021, at which dozens of advocates and stakeholders testified in support of the bill, without any testimony in opposition.
The Yale Law School Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic addresses issues of national security, antidiscrimination, climate change, and democracy through litigation, policy advocacy, and strategic planning.