A Valley legislator is pushing an idea proposed before to count prison inmates for census purposes where they are from, not where they actually live. The proposal, which would have the greatest negative impact on Pinal County’s largest legislative district, should be shelved the way it was before.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, says the greatest benefit would be felt by his Legislative District 29. He says that although the process he proposes would be time-consuming, a few other states are doing it.
Meanwhile, Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, the House’s speaker pro tem, says Legislative District 8 would suffer and he plans to use his clout to kill the bill. He certainly will have support in Florence, which has about 17,000 inmates in various institutions, and Eloy, which has 7,000. Those municipalities provide various services including first responders, utilities and roads that have more traffic. While the prisons provide many jobs in Pinal County and are a big part of the economy, the costs are significant. Of course, the private prisons pay taxes and otherwise support their hometowns.
Quezada sees the measure as affecting the partisan balance in the Legislature because Pinal County is more Republican. That is true, but not everything can be reduced to partisan concerns. He says that most of the inmates eventually will be released, and many will return to their home areas. But they aren’t free yet and must do their time.
Today there seems to be a general trend to give too much consideration to inmates. In some areas, there has been a movement to give them the right to vote. Yes, they should be rehabilitated and have a chance to live a normal life. But first things first: If their crimes had been less serious or smaller in number, they would be on probation. They will be counted elsewhere after they are released.