Pubdate: Sun, 06 Jul 2003
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2003 Newsday Inc.
Author: Ludovic Blain
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)


Your article "Battle Over Drug Laws" [News, July 1], about Russell
Simmons and the resiliency of the Rockefeller drug laws, mentioned
that upstate politicians benefit from large prison populations because
they think more prisons mean more jobs. But that's only half the
story. On census day, prisoners are counted as living in upstate
districts and not counted as part of their home communities.

Come Election Day, the prisoners can't vote, so residents in
prison-hosting communities upstate essentially vote on the prisoners'
behalf, even though they don't have many common interests. So, maybe
there are other reasons that some state senators are afraid to stop
over-incarcerating New Yorkers - their electoral strength depends on
it. And the fact that prisoners and ex-offenders are pawns in this
political power game is the true tragedy.

Ludovic Blain


Editor's Note: The writer is associate director of the Democracy Program at
Demos, a research and advocacy organization.
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