Thursday, May 27, 2021

ROLC Celebrates Abolition of Prison Gerrymandering in CT

With Governor Ned Lamont’s signature of S.B. 753 on May 26, 2021, Connecticut abolished prison gerrymandering, a cause championed by justice-impacted people and their loved ones, the Connecticut State Conference of the NAACP (NAACP-CT), and the ACLU of Connecticut for over a decade. Effective immediately, and in time for the state’s once-a-decade redistricting process, Connecticut will count incarcerated people at their home communities, rather than their place of incarceration, for purposes of redistricting.

NAACP-CT and the ACLU of Connecticut are represented by the Yale Law School Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic (ROLC).

“Today is a joyous and historic day,” said Corrie Betts, Criminal Justice Chair of the NAACP-CT. “For years, we have worked tirelessly to end prison gerrymandering in Connecticut. On behalf of the NAACP-CT and its thousands of members, we express our deepest gratitude to all those who stood beside us in this fight for racial justice and voting rights.”

Connecticut is now the 11th state to abolish prison gerrymandering, alongside New York, California, New Jersey, and others. Advocates argue that under prison gerrymandering, Connecticut denied incarcerated people meaningful representation by counting incarcerated people where they were imprisoned for the purpose of redistricting, instead of their home communities. Prison gerrymandering inflated the power of the districts where prisons are located, which are predominantly white and rural, at the expense of districts where incarcerated people reside, which are predominantly Black, Latinx, and urban. 

“This moment is only possible because justice-impacted people and their loved ones have been fighting for it for more than a decade. No longer will Connecticut violate the dignity of incarcerated people by counting them where they are caged instead of the place they call home,” said Claudine Fox, Interim Public Policy and Advocacy Director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “The ACLU of Connecticut will never stop fighting for Connecticut to prioritize people and not prisons, and our state must particularly invest in Black and brown communities that have been most harmed by mass incarceration. Prison gerrymandering is racist and undemocratic, and today, our state made a historic leap forward to right one of the wrongs of its past.”

The NAACP-CT and ACLU of Connecticut have long supported ending prison gerrymandering. In early March, both organizations launched a campaign to support S.B. 753. With bipartisan support from legislators, the bill cleared the Connecticut State Senate on May 5 and the Connecticut House of Representatives on May 12.

“It has been an immense honor to represent the NAACP and ACLU in the fight to end prison gerrymandering,” said Alex Boudreau ’21, a law student intern with the ROLC. “After years of litigation and advocacy, Connecticut has chosen fairness, equality, and justice. We simply could not be more thrilled.”

The Yale Law School Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic addresses issues of national security, anti-discrimination, climate change, and democracy through litigation, policy advocacy, and strategic planning.