Jackson Township has 6,650 people who are living there as a result of their incarceration – about 11.5% of the municipality’s total population – and the redistribution of those individuals as part of the state’s new prison gerrymandering laws could have a have impact on how new legislative districts are drawn in Lakewood, according to a report from New Jersey Policy Perspective.
New laws signed by Gov. Phil Murphy this year will require state officials to deduct the numbers of individuals counted by the 2020 U.S. Census in municipalities that have jails, prisons and detention centers are redistribute them to the towns they lives in prior to their incarceration.
“With prison gerrymandering, communities where prisons and jails were built receive outsize representation based on their incarcerated population,” said Peter Chen, a NJPP senior policy analyst. “Conversely, communities that have been disproportionately harmed by mass incarceration have had their populations artificially lowered by their incarcerated population, even though that population will inevitably require services, infrastructure, and representation upon their return.”
For example, 49% of the population of Maurice River in Cumberland County are incarcerated at the Bayside State Prison and the Southern State Correctional Facility. For the purpose of congressional and legislative redistricting, the state will remove 3,034 people from the Maurice River number and transfer them to their hometowns.
That doesn’t mean every person jailed in Maurice River will be reassigned, since it’s possible someone there is actually from Maurice River.
Still, the adjustment of more than 3,000 less people in Maurice River, and another 4,245 who are incarcerated at a state prison in Vineland will impact redistricting in the 1st legislative district.
The ideal size of legislative districts is 232,225 and the latest count has the 1st district at a population of 216,124. Between the number of incarcerated people counted in Vineland and Maurice River, that number drops to 208,845.
The Atlantic-based 2nd, which is 16,069 people short of an ideal-sized district. Senate President Steve Sweeny’s 3rd district.
The Sweeney district is 1,013 people over being perfectly sized, but 4,245 people at the South Woods State Prison and the Cumberland County Jail are currently counted in Bridgeton, which is in the 3rd.
The Jackson numbers are affected by a federal correctional institution and U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Dix.
Drawing maps involving Jackson is complicated, considering Lakewood’s massive population growth and boundaries with just Toms River, Brick, Wall and Jackson.
According to the NJPP report, there are 9,349 incarcerated people in Newark’s 29th district, and 3,427 in Trenton, which is in the 15th.
For congressional redistricting, NJPP says that the 2nd district (Van Drew) has 9,164 people who are incarcerated, while the 3rd (Kim) has 7,455 and the 10th (Payne) has 9,661.
New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way has said the state will adjust the new census numbers within seven days of receiving the final counts from the U.S. Census Bureau in September, as required by law.