TRENTON – State officials have tweaked New Jersey’s census results for the purposes of redrawing political maps for the next decade, reallocating 16,198 prisoners out of the towns where they’re jailed back to the addresses where they used to reside.

Another 5,978 people were removed from the redistricting count entirely because their prior address is out-of-state or unclear – mostly federal inmates whose details were declared off-limits.

The changes affect about 0.24% of the state’s total population, or one of every 419 residents.

Henal Patel, director of the democracy and justice program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, said New Jersey has long engaged in “prison-based gerrymandering,” counting incarcerated people as residents of the municipality where their prison is located – even though they aren’t really part of that community and never have been.

Nearly 62% of the state inmates are Black – and, Patel says, their home communities are politically weakened, artificially boosting the influence of the towns where they’re locked up but cannot vote.

“Where we count people matters,” Patel said. “In this situation, for decades and decades, what we have been doing is using prison bodies, the majority of them Black, to inflate the power of other people. It’s a modern-day Three-fifths Compromise. So, it’s a major victory that we’ve ended this practice. It’s huge.”

Cumberland affected most

The political clout of Cumberland County is affected most by the adjustment, as its population of 154,152 will be treated as 147,094 for mapmaking purposes – a drop of 4.6%. Burlington County is 1% smaller, and Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Essex also see their redistricting counts shrink.

Most counties add to their official population counts, as do 467 of the state’s 565 municipalities, reflecting former residents who were incarcerated elsewhere.

Inmates were removed from the count of 26 municipalities that are home to prisons or halfway houses, although only 12 localities had a net loss after people were reassigned back to their home addresses. Eight of them were shrunk by more than 1,000, including four where nearly 3,000 inmates or more were reallocated out of town.

The population of New Hanover plunges more than half, at 2,702 rather than 6,367. Maurice River is down nearly half without its two state prisons. Newark’s count was adjusted down by 3,351 to reflect the prison and halfway houses there, but nearly 2,000 inmates were then added back to its count.

Patel said it’s appropriate to count inmates at their previous home, where they have ties and are likely to return once they’re released.

“That is their home. This is where they’re from,” Patel said. “This is where their communities are. This is where their families are. This is where their kids are. This is where they should be counted.”

Feds won't share info

The Federal Bureau of Prisons would not provide the requested data because the state’s request was not for law enforcement purposes and, thus, said it wasn’t permitted to be disclosed. That affects 2,997 inmates at Fort Dix in Burlington County and 1,035 inmates at the Fairton prison complex in Cumberland County.

Those prisoners – as well as 1,114 state inmates who used to reside outside New Jersey and 797 whose prior address wasn’t known by the state, was incomplete or was a post office box or rural route – aren’t counted anywhere for redistricting purposes and are listed at “an unknown location within the state.”

In all, 5,958 people are assigned to no geography for redistricting purposes.

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The state had to compensate for some quirks and inaccuracies in the census data, including seven census blocks where the Department of Corrections reported an inmate population – most of them in halfway houses – but the 2020 Census recorded nobody living in group quarters.

County-by-county details

Atlantic County

2020 Census: 274,534

Adjusted population: 275,531

Removed: 6

Added: 1,003

Change: 997

Percent change: 0.36%

 

Bergen County

2020 Census: 955,732

Adjusted population: 956,200

Removed: 8

Added: 476

Change: 468

Percent change: 0.05%

 

Burlington County

2020 Census: 461,860

Adjusted population: 457,230

Removed: 5,210

Added: 580

Change: -4,630

Percent change: -1.00%

 

Camden County

2020 Census: 523,485

Adjusted population: 524,999

Removed: 297

Added: 1,811

Change: 1,514

Percent change: 0.29%

 

Cape May County

2020 Census: 95,263

Adjusted population: 95,518

Removed: 4

Added: 259

Change: 255

Percent change: 0.27%

 

Cumberland County

2020 Census: 154,152

Adjusted population: 147,094

Removed: 7,711

Added: 653

Change: -7,058

Percent change: -4.58%

 

Essex County

2020 Census: 863,728

Adjusted population: 863,421

Removed: 3,351

Added: 3,044

Change: -307

Percent change: -0.04%

 

Gloucester County

2020 Census: 302,294

Adjusted population: 302,670

Removed: 0

Added: 376

Change: 376

Percent change: 0.12%

 

Hudson County

2020 Census: 724,854

Adjusted population: 725,887

Removed: 6

Added: 1,038

Change: 1,033

Percent change: 0.14%

 

Hunterdon County

2020 Census: 128,947

Adjusted population: 127,899

Removed: 1,084

Added: 36

Change: -1.048

Percent change: -0.81%

 

Mercer County

2020 Census: 387,340

Adjusted population: 385,636

Removed: 2,720

Added: 1,016

Change: -1,704

Percent change: -0.44%

 

Middlesex County

2020 Census: 863,162

Adjusted population: 862,610

Removed: 1,703

Added: 1,151

Change: -552

Percent change: -0.06%

 

Monmouth County

2020 Census: 643,615

Adjusted population: 644,455

Removed: 4

Added: 844

Change: 840

Percent change: 0.13%

 

Morris County

2020 Census: 509,285

Adjusted population: 509,479

Removed: 9

Added: 203

Change: 194

Percent change: 0.04%

 

Ocean County

2020 Census: 637,229

Adjusted population: 637,786

Removed: 3

Added: 560

Change: 557

Percent change: 0.09%

 

Passaic County

2020 Census: 524,118

Adjusted population: 525,464

Removed: 49

Added: 1,395

Change: 1,346

Percent change: 0.26%

 

Salem County

2020 Census: 64,837

Adjusted population: 64,987

Removed: 0

Added: 150

Change: 150

Percent change: 0.23%

 

Somerset County

2020 Census: 345,361

Adjusted population: 345,641

Removed: 2

Added: 282

Change: 280

Percent change: 0.08%

 

Sussex County

2020 Census: 144,221

Adjusted population: 144,333

Removed: 0

Added: 112

Change: 112

Percent change: 0.08%

 

Union County

2020 Census: 575,345

Adjusted population: 576,460

Removed: 7

Added: 1,122

Change:1,115

Percent change: 0.19%

 

Warren County

2020 Census: 109,632

Adjusted population: 109,716

Removed: 2

Added: 86

Change: 84

Percent change: 0.08%

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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