June 2, 2010

Census and Prisoners: More Action

The Delaware House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would count prisoners at their home addresses, not the places where they are incarcerated, for purposes of redistricting after the 2010 Census. Inmates who lived out of state before they were incarcerated would not be counted for redistricting purposes. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

In the past, when legislative districts were redrawn using census data, inmates have been included at their prison addresses. Some state officials and legislators say that gives disproportionate power to rural areas with large prisons. The Census Bureau announced in February that it would release detailed numbers earlier than usual to give more power to states to use 2010 Census data to exclude prisoners from being counted at their prison locations for redistricting purposes.

Legislation has been enacted in Maryland to count prisoners at their last known home addresses if they are in state or federal prisons and were state residents before they were incarcerated. According to the Prison Policy Institute, which advocates for counting prisoners at their home addresses, similar legislation has been proposed in New York and Rhode Island.