Rep. Felix calls on reapportionment commission to end the way prisoners are apportioned


STATE HOUSE — Rep. Leonela “Leo” Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) has written a letter to the state’s legislative Reapportionment Commission asking the board to change the way prisoners are counted for the apportionment of Senate and House districts.

“The practice of prison malapportionment offends the fundamental principle of equal representation and inflicts tangible harm upon incarcerated individuals and communities like mine, which they call home,” she wrote. “For these reasons, I respectfully request that you consider discrediting this practice and count incarcerated individuals at their pre-incarceration residences.”

“Rhode Island, like most states, counts incarcerated individuals as residents of the jurisdictions where they are incarcerated, rather than where their pre-incarceration homes are located. Since political districts are drawn based on population, districts with prisons, like Cranston—rather than the home districts of incarcerated individuals—benefit from the population bump.”

“Given the demographics of our cities and towns in Rhode Island, it’s plain to see the result of this practice creates an artificially inflated representation for the City of Cranston, and communities like mine are thus negatively affected by this practice.”

The state constitution calls for the General Assembly to reapportion its districts as well as the two congressional districts after each 10-year federal census. Members of the Reapportionment Commission have announced they will convene a meeting at the State House to address the apportionment of prison inmates.