August 4, 2010

New York Prisoners and the Census

New York legislators have passed a bill that would count prisoners at their home addresses, not those where they are incarcerated, for purposes of redrawing state and local legislative districts using data from the 2010 Census next year. The provision was included in a budget bill sent to Gov. David A. Paterson for his signature.

The Census Bureau announced in February that it would release detailed numbers earlier than usual so that states would be able to use 2010 Census data to exclude prisoners from being counted at their prison locations for redistricting purposes. Some state officials and legislators contend that the current practice of counting prisoners where they are incarcerated gives disproportionate power to communities with large prisons, which are often located in sparsely populated rural areas.

Maryland enacted similar legislation earlier this year. Delaware legislators have passed a similar bill, and sent it to the state’s governor, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a group that advocates for counting prisoners in their home communities.