Some states switched up after the 2010 census. They decided to start counting prisoners based on their home communities, and not the prisons where they reside. The controversy over this makes it clear why our participation in the census is so important!
According to analysis from Stateline.org, “Many inmates hail from neighborhoods in or near cities, but most are incarcerated in small towns and rural areas.” This means that counting inmates in prisons could shift power to rural areas, whereas not doing so emphasizes cities.
The census count has everything to do with legislative representation and resources. An accurate count means a more accurate measurement of who gets what. This is why it’s important to participate. And keep in mind that prisoners can’t vote (except in 2 states), so they’re not really considered constituents.
It’s being described as “prison gerrymandering,” and it depends on where you are and who runs your state to know what’s what. Prison Policy Initiative says it “leads to a dramatic distortion of representation at local and state levels, and creates an inaccurate picture of community populations.”
If you didn’t know, now you know. The census is a big deal and participation matters. If it didn’t, why else would a debate like this be ongoing? It’s up to us to make sure our communities are counted accurately, starting with each of us individuals!