Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Forum to focus on new options for inmate count

Anyone interested in how the Census Bureau is counting prison populations according to state directives will have a chance to learn more at a Washington, D.C., forum next week. The April 27 event, "Prisons, Redistricting, and the Census: New Options for States and Localities," will be hosted by public-policy research and advocacy organization Demos, the Prison Policy Initiative and the Brennan Center for Justice. "Members of Congress, Census Bureau representatives, and state and local officials will discuss how prison counts affect fair representation, and how state and local governments can address these problems in the 2010 round of redistricting," says a news release. For the first time, states can decide whether prison inmates will be counted as residents of the locality with the prison or as residents of the last place they resided. (Read more)

Peter Wagner, the executive director of the Prison Policy Initiative and a participant in the forum, explained the need for more information about the issue in a comment on our most recent item about the debate: "The real victims of prison-based gerrymandering are everyone who doesn't have a massive prison in their district," he wrote. "Rural residents who don't live near prisons lose about as much from prison-based gerrymandering as urban residents in communities with high rates of incarceration."

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