New Report on Where to Count the Prison Population

A new report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) looks at “how states account for people who are incarcerated at the time redistricting occurs—also known as prisoner reallocation, prison gerrymandering reform or, as NCSL refers to it, inmate data reallocation. By whatever name it’s given, the process subtracts inmates’ data from the location where they are incarcerated and adds it to the place they called home before their imprisonment.”

Some advocacy groups want the Census Bureau to count prisoners at where they used to live, rather than their current residence (prison).

NCSL charted a significant increase in “inmate data reallocation” between the 2010 Census and 2020 Census, going from only two states having such policies, to 13 states in 2020 redistricting. The report explores the pro and con positions for these policies, and delves into the experiences of those 13 states that implemented such policies in the 2020 redistricting cycle: “California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington. Illinois passed an inmate data reallocation law prior to the 2020 cycle but delayed its implementation to 2030. Advisory commissions in New Mexico and other states did some reallocation work, but the reallocated data sets were not used in final maps adopted by policymakers.”

There has been some state and federal legislative moves on this topic recently as well (see the April Census Project Update).

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