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Census 2010: Debate On Inmates Is Renewed

By Ed O'Keefe

The Post's New York bureau chief Keith B. Richburg writes in today's Post about the controversial policy of counting large populations of inmates at state and federal prisons located in sparsely populated rural areas.

As an example, Richburg cites an Upstate New York state senate district that is larger in size than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. It's home to 13 prisons -- 12 state and one federal -- and the district would not have enough people in it to qualify as a senate district were it not for all of the inmates within it.

Writes Richburg:

The Census Bureau has no plans to change the way it counts prisoners in 2010. Spokesman Robert Bernstein said, "We're following the concept of 'usual residence' -- where the person lives and sleeps most of the time."
Under the concept, as explained on the bureau's Web site, people who are temporarily away from their usual residence on Census Day -- vacationers or business travelers, for example -- will be counted as residents wherever they live "most of the time." People "without a usual residence . . . will be counted where they are staying on Census Day."
One problem with that method of counting, critics say, is that most prisoners do not stay in the area after their release. ... An alternative would be to count prisoners at their last known address -- an approach favored by the NAACP and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I).

A recent analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative found that seven Upstate New York state senate districts would not meet the population requirement without including inmates.

So what would you do? Count temporarily incarcerated inmates as part of the grand total of a rural area's population? Or count them based on where they came from before incarceration? Read Keith's entire article then leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 25, 2009; 2:12 PM ET
Categories:  Census, From The Pages of The Post  
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