/ April 27, 2009

Census 2010: Where Should We Count Inmates?


“Little Siberia” – Counting NYC Inmates Upstate
The next census will count everyone based on where they reside on April 1, 2010.  Then, states and counties use the census numbers to draw up the legislative districts.  Over the weekend, the Washington Post highlighted one district in upstate New York where 13,500 inmates reside in “Little Siberia” which is twelve state prisons and one federal prison.  The inmates may be counted as Upstate residents in the census.

Distorting the District or Accurately Allocating Tax Dollars?
Elizabeth O’C. Little, the State Senator from that district, says that the inmates are clear residents of the district and should be counted as such.  Without counting these prisoners, the district would need to be redrawn.

The Prison Policy Initiative studies the impact of counting inmates “where they are confined, not where they come from” and argues that this distorts districts and representation, especially because most inmates cannot vote.  It further argues that most inmates move back to where they came from when the sentence is up.

One solution would be counting prisoners at their last known address.  In New York, for example, this would allocate more representation (and tax dollars) for New York City.  Opponents of this solution respond that prisoners are using the district’s infrastructure and should, therefore, be counted in the district.

Source: Washington Post

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