Bar None

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One of the problems with the census is the way it counts prison inmates.The census was originated to simply count voters to insure that each state received accurate representation in the House of Representatives.

Felons lose their right to vote, yet prison inmates are routinely sent census forms and currently they are counted by the U.S. Census Bureau as being residents of the area in which the prison is located. A city or town that has several hundred to a few thousand residents but also has a correctional facility population of several hundred to several thousand is inaccurately represented in the House.

This is called prison-based gerrymandering.

A study by the Prison Policy Initiative, an advocacy group, has found 21 counties across the U.S. where at least one in five people, according to the Census Bureau’s count, were counted as residents but were actually prison inmates.The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics stated in June of 2002 that the prison system population topped 2 million. That’s one in every one hundred forty-five citizens. That’s 2 million census forms that are inaccurately filled out, skewing that state’s, and the prisoner’s home state’s, representation in the House of Representatives.Census Bureau’s residency rules define a person’s “usual residence” as the place where they sleep most nights. Jefferson Taylor, the bureau’s associate director for communications, said it would be difficult to determine home addresses for many inmates, especially those on death row or serving life sentences.

“If we did this, it is very likely we would have to conduct interviews with 2 million prisoners,” Taylor said. “They are not going to let us go in and conduct interviews with Charles Manson.”

So how do prisons determine who is head of household anyway? The head of household has to answer the questions for everyone else in the “household”. Is it the warden, the guards? Who ever was in the cell first? The one with more heineous crime record? Is one cell a considered a household or just one room on a block? What about death row? How would a prison inmate answer the rwenty-one housing questions on the U.S Censu Bureau’s American Community Survey?

Question 1 on the housing section of the survey says:

Which best describes this building? There are 10 check boxes for question one but not one of them has a check box for “TheBig House”.

Question 7a. asks, “How many separate rooms are in this house, apartment, or mobile home? Then the instructions are: “Rooms must be separated by built-in archways or walls that extend out at least 6 inches and go from floor to ceiling.”

What about bars, do they count as a wall?

Question 7b. asks: “How many of these rooms are bedrooms?

Here are a couple of questions in question 8. There is a “Yes” and “No” checkbox for each one. the question is: “Does this house, apartment, or mobile home have-

Hot and cold running water?

A flush toilet?

A sink with a faucet?

A stove or range? (Would a microwave do?)

A refrigerator?

Sure it does, they’re all right in each “bedroom”.

Question 10 asks: Which fuel is used most for this apartment, house, or mobile home.

They might be able to answer that one. There is a check box for coke.

One solution has been suggested and that is that the U.S. Census Bureau should count prison inmates, not as residents of prisons, but at their actual home addresses. However, the Census is for counting voters. Except for two states, felons lose their right to vote so they should not be given census forms at all. State and local lawmakers should be excluding prison inmates from population counts when legislative districts are drawn. The current arrangement undermines the most basic democratic principle of one person, one vote. And that basic democratic principle applies only to citizens who have the right to vote.

Sign me,

Resident Apt 1

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