Home>Highlight>State department releases updated Census numbers following prison reapportionment

South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, New Jersey. (Photo: Tutor Perrini).

State department releases updated Census numbers following prison reapportionment

Municipalities with correctional facilities see large population drops

By Joey Fox, September 24 2021 10:01 am

The New Jersey Department of State released data last night readjusting 2020 U.S. Census numbers to reflect new prison gerrymandering laws passed this year, narrowly achieving their deadline of September 23.

The numbers, which may still be revised next week pending a technical review, take the Census’ original data and reallocate all incarcerated individuals from their correctional facility addresses to their home addresses. 

As compared to official Census numbers released last month, most municipalities experienced a slight increase in population, a logical finding given that most municipalities have at least a small number of residents in prison.

Some municipalities saw greater change, among them Atlantic City, Asbury Park, Wildwood, Camden, and Salem, each of which evidently has a large number of imprisoned residents and saw a population increase of greater than 1 percent.

The new numbers portend far more drastic changes, however, for municipalities that are themselves home to large corrections facilities.

The most dramatic decrease was in New Hanover, a small township in Burlington County. With the prisoners at Mid-State Correctional Facility reallocated to their pre-incarceration addresses, the town’s population fell from 6,367 to 2,702, a tremendous 135% drop.

Other municipalities that lost a sizable portion of their population include Maurice River, where the Bayside State Prison and the Southern State Correctional Facility are located; Chesterfield, home to the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility; and the neighboring municipalities of Bridgeton and Fairfield, containing a number of different facilities.

Some large municipalities with correctional facilities in them, such as Trenton, Newark, and Woodbridge, also saw less dramatic population decreases.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed the first of two prison gerrymandering bills on January 21, with the intention of shifting power away from towns like New Hanover, which ostensibly have large populations (and thus outsized influence in redistricting), but in fact have small electorates because prisoners are barred from voting.

The numbers released last night will be used for all of the state’s upcoming redistricting, including for congressional, legislative, and local maps.

The next redistricting-related deadline will arrive on September 26, when Democratic and Republican county chairs in Atlantic, Essex, and Hudson Counties must pick members of the commission that redraws county commissioner districts. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner will pick tiebreakers for those three counties if the panel – two Democrats and two Republicans – are unable to agree on a map.

Rabner must also name the tiebreaker for the Legislative Apportionment Commission by October 23. The new legislative district map must be approved by March 1, 2022, but that could happen anytime after the November general election. Congressional maps, on the other hand, must be completed by January 18, 2022.

Correction: an earlier version of this story listed the deadline to name members of county commissioner redistricting as October 3.  It is September 26.

NJG Prison gerrymandering adjustments
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