TESTIMONY TO THE LEGISLATIVE REAPPORTIONMENT COMMISSION
On a resolution to exempt prisoners serving 10+ years from being counted in their home districts
By Jenna Henry, Deputy Director, Better PA
This Commission already made the decision that was best for temporarily incarcerated Pennsylvanians. To now go back and alter that decision would not only be watering down a historical achievement by the LRC, it would create more problems.
Making an arbitrary delineation between one group of incarcerated people and another for the purposes of drawing legislative districts does nothing to solve the problem of a lack of adequate representation and constituent services for the group of incarcerated people that would still be counted in their prison district. As many Pennsylvanians, myself included, testified to during previous LRC hearings, getting services from state representatives for temporarily incarcerated citizens is complicated and, often, difficult. This is a problem for incarcerated people, their families, and for legislators. Passing this resolution would make this problem even worse, as it would create separate categories of inmates that families and legislators would have to navigate in order to determine responsibility for services.
The passing of this resolution would also be entirely arbitrary, as a person's minimum sentence is never set in stone. There are various ways that a person could be released prior to their minimum sentence including but not limited to, good behavior, completing a rehabilitation program, and re-sentencing or acquittal on appeal. There is also no guarantee that an incarcerated person would stay in the same facility for the entire duration of their sentence. One of the only things that is certain in an incarcerated person’s life is where they call home.
Ultimately, anytime we’re having a discussion that decides that the lives of one group of people matter less than another, we are already on a slippery slope. Whether purposeful or not, that’s exactly what Leader Ward’s resolution is, a discussion about who should matter less. These are not just lines on a map or numbers on a page to be compromised with. These are human beings and all their lives matter.