The bill before the state House Judiciary Committee that would change the way the prison population is counted in census taking could affect how much money Cheshire receives in Education Cost Sharing grants.
Ultimately the bill — proposed Bill No. 5518, An Act Concerning the Determination of Residence for Incarcerated Persons — pits large cities against municipalities that are home to correctional facilities, Cheshire Town Council president Tim Slocum said.
Many prisoners hail from large cities such as Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, but are counted as Cheshire residents while serving time at the Cheshire Correctional Institution. The prison adds almost 2,000 inmates to Cheshire's population.
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The bill was introduced by New Haven Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, who is running for mayor of that city. If it is approved, inmates would be counted as residents of their hometowns rather than Cheshire residents, reducing the population upon which ECS grants are based, and bolstering the population of the cities from which they came.
"It's something that's always a concern when you have a prison in your town," Slocum said. The inmates should continue to be counted in Cheshire's population because of the services the town provides to the prison, he said.
"The fact that it is in our town mean we are providing a variety services for them — there's some rational thinking behind the whole thing," he said. "We would be naturally be upset if that were to change because the implications would be considerable."
Those representing large cities such as Holder-Winfield are in favor of it because it bolsters those populations, he said.
"The cities want to do it not because they want the prisoners back in their cities, but because they want to be able to count them in their population numbers," Slocum said. "We are all fighting for same amount of money in the shrinking pool of money,and while the needs are greater, the money not getting greater."
Every dollar is state funding lost has to be made up somewhere, he said, and the only option open to the town is to raise property taxes.
"It brings the screaming closer to home," he said. "We have no one else to turn to but the taxpayer."
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