Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘delaware

Delaware Becomes Second State to Address Prison-based Gerrymandering

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Delaware’s Senate and House have passed legislation that would count prisoners at home for redistricting purposes. Now, the signature of Governor Jack Markell is the only remaining step to turn Delaware’s HB384 into law. Delaware will become, after Maryland, the second state in the nation to address the democracy-distorting practice of using prison populations to artificially inflate electoral districts. The Delaware law only applies to redistricting, and will not affect state or federal funding allocations.

From the Prisoners of the Census blog:

“Delaware’s legislation recognizes that prison-based gerrymandering is a problem of fairness in redistricting. All districts — some far more than others — send people to prison, but only some districts have large prisons. Counting incarcerated people as residents of the prison distorts the principle of one person, one vote, and we applaud the Delaware General Assembly for enacting this common-sense solution,” said Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative.

The problem is national as well. One state assembly district in New York includes 7% prisoners; a state house district in Texas includes 12% prisoners; and 15% of one Montana state house district consists of prisoners imported from other parts of the state. Prison-based gerrymandering was not a serious problem when the prison population was tiny, but the 2010 Census will find five times as many people in prison as it did just three decades ago.

Written by sara

July 7, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Federal Prisons More Crowded, Less Funded; DOJ Lagging on Prison Rape Standards; and More

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Although I said I wouldn’t be blogging this week, there have been a few must-read news items in the past few days for those interested in prison/jail issues:

  • The Crunch in Federal Prisons“: The Crime Report notes that federal prisons are now at 34% above capacity, but Congress isn’t keeping up with the growth by allocating more funding. The federal prison system now holds over 200,000 inmates, i.e., more than California. Slightly over half of federal prisoners are doing time for drug-related crimes, and most of them are subject to tough mandatory minimum sentences.
  • U.S. Likely to Miss Deadline on Prison Rape Rules“: Attorney General Eric Holder is likely to miss an upcoming deadline to promulgate regulations requiring jails and prisons to adopt best practices for preventing prison rape. Holder says local wardens worry the required changes would be too costly.
  • Delaware House passes bill to count incarcerated people at home“: The Delaware House unanimously passed legislation to count incarcerated people at their home addresses for redistricting purposes. The bill now goes to the Senate. If it passes there, Delaware will be the second state — after Maryland — to eliminate prison-based gerrymandering.

Improving Health Care in Delaware Prisons

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The Delaware News Journal recently reported about ongoing litigation over health care conditions in that state’s prisons. Edward G. Williams, an inmate in the maximum security Vaughn Correctional Center, filed a federal lawsuit in 2007 claiming that he has been denied adequate treatment for his health problems, which include “a bulge the size of a canteloupe” in his abdomen. District Judge Joseph F. Farnan is overseeing the lawsuit.

Delaware contracts with St. Louis-based Correctional Medical Services — to the tune of almost $40 million a year — to provide health care services in its prisons (you can download a redacted version of the contract at the Delaware DOC website). As the News Journal reports, Delaware’s prison health care system is already under federal oversight as a result of earlier litigation:

Williams’ claim comes as the Delaware Department of Correction is being credited by the U.S. Justice Department with showing significant progress under a three-year mandate to improve prison health care for its more than 6,900 inmates. When the agreement was extended last month for another two years, the federal government said the department met 214 of its 217 original health care mandates.

Though there are still problems, Corrections Commissioner Carl C. Danberg said prison health care is far better than it was three years ago when a series by The News Journal revealed high inmate death rates, especially from AIDS and suicides.

Written by sara

January 23, 2010 at 5:56 pm

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