Saturday, August 27, 2016

Will New Jersey be misrepresented because of this bad Census practice?


There is a little-known and fully unjust practice that has powerful implications on our democracy--Prison-based gerrymandering which takes political power from communities of color. 
Image result for US Census Bureau jails
The U.S. Census is required to count everyone within the borders every 10 years, but incarcerated people aren't allowed to be counted at their permanent address.

Over 2 million incarcerated people will be misrepresented in districts they have no connection to. Incarcerated people are being counted in the wrong places--the place of their detainment at the time of the census, rather than their permanent address. This causes a distortion of political representation.

Please click here to sign and send a message to the U.S. Census Bureau urging them to accurately count incarcerated people at their permanent addresses--the communities they will return to after their sentence, instead of the place of their temporary interment.


Right now, we have the opportunity to pressure the Census Bureau to change this practice. They are accepting public comment on their practices until Sept. 1.

Prison gerrymandering deprives home districts, typically urban centers, and neighborhoods with a large population of people of color, of vital representation and gives areas where prisons are housed, typically rural and white, disproportionate representation. See the case of Anamosa, Iowa, New York state, and Wyoming for some of the most egregious examples.

Incarcerated people are often housed in prisons and jails temporarily and moved around often. Most people in prison are serving short sentences--many less than three years spread across multiple facilities. In New York state, the median time served in a facility is less than seven months. In Georgia,the average person has been transferred four times and the median time spent at the current facility is nine months. While their locations change often, incarcerated people are always required to report a permanent address. This is where they should be counted--much the way that temporary residents are counted.

It's a violation of equal representation, plain and simple.

Please click here to contact the Census Bureau and urge them to rectify this injustice. We have pre-written statements and plenty of information for you to add so that we can push the Census Bureau to do the right thing. 


Currently, the US Census Bureau is counting incarcerated people incorrectly and the implications for our democracy are huge--over 2 million people misrepresented in districts they have no connection to. 

Incarcerated people are being counted in the wrong places--the place of their detainment at the time of the census, rather than their permanent address. This is just one of many injustices caused by the rise in mass incarceration which causes a distortion of political representation. 

This practice, known as prison gerrymandering is a problem for a number of reasons. Prison gerrymanderingrobs home districts, typically urban centers, and neighborhoods with a large population of people of color, of vital representation and gives areas where prisons are housed, typically rural and white, disproportionate representation. See the case of Anamosa, Iowa, New York state, and Wyoming for some of the most egregious examples. 

It's a violation of equal representation, plain and simple. Click through to the next page to submit your comment now, or read on for more information. 

Here are some of the important facts about this issue: 

  • The Census Bureau must count all people in the U.S.--including non-citizens, children, temporary residents, deployed military, students and non-voters. Most everyone is counted at their permanent residence--incarcerated people are an exception.
  • The Census Bureau cannot ignore prisoners because they must count everyone, and formerly incarcerated people will return home to their community upon release. Therefore, they should be counted there.
  • Incarcerated people are often housed in prisons and jails temporarily and moved around often. Most people in prison are serving short sentences--many less than three years spread across multiple facilities. In New York state, the median time served in a facility is less than seven months. In Georgia, the average person has been transferred four times and the median time spent at the current facility is nine months. While their locations change often, incarcerated people are always required to report a permanent address. This is where they should be counted--much the way temporary residents are counted.
  • This is about democracy, not funding. Most government funding formulas are too smart to be fooled by the Census Bureau’s prison miscount. When prisons are built in an area, they are built with a specific population maximum. Infrastructure planning for such facilities is done based on the maximum size of the prison. School funding is allocated based on the number of students--not prisoners. Opponents of reversing the current counting mechanism often use this argument and it's a false flag.
  • States are acting against this practice and are adopting, have adopted, or attempted to adopt legislation across the country--including New York,Maryland, Delaware and CaliforniaFlorida's plan for prison gerrymandering was ruled unconstitutional.
  • Prior to the mass incarceration phenomenon, this was not a question of concern for the Census Bureau because it was rare and affected a small number of people. They began inquiring about incarceration in 1990--when the prison population exploded from 137 per 100,000 during the great depression to 470 per 100,000 in 2001 because of the war on drugs and increased tough on crime policing.
Sign and send your comment to the Census Bureau before the September 1 deadline.