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Monday, March 08, 2010

The Consensus on Cons in the Census

The 2010 Census is now in progress, with cities trying to tally up every single person at every single address possible in order to maximize the rewards in the end. After all, the states with the most population get the most representation in Washington D.C. and the cities with the most people get the most funding for public services.

So Mayor Rudy Clay of Gary, Indiana brings up an interesting point (by way of proposed legislation, of course) in that he wants the residents of Gary who are incarcerated outside of the city to count on the census for Gary instead of the location of their enprisonment.

Who should get to claim a prisoner on the census - the prison city or the prisoner's non-prison address city?

According to the news story that brought this to my attention, "Some civil rights advocates and municipal leaders argue that the current way inmates are counted gives prison towns an unfair advantage in census counts."

So let's look at it this way - who should be benefitting with the bonus public funds and votes in the Capitol?

The benefactor city would receive funding for:

I'm pretty sure that prisons have their own hospitals on-suite. I would admit that there are likely situations that require a convict to go to a REAL hospital, but I think they are too few and far-between to say that every inmate should count towards funds for a hospital of which they are not likely going to be a patient.

•Job training centers
Again, prisons do this on-site. For jobs like license-plate-making (although it's not really training if the industry diesn't exist OUTSIDE prison) or maybe librarian? I'm guessing a lot of lawyer training for all those convicts reading law books and making appeals themselves?

I don't really see the population of convicted felons having a single thing to do with schools. Maybe their children. Who are not in prison (hopefully), and therefore still residing for the census in their hometown.

•Senior centers
While I'm sure there are prisoners above the age of 65, I doubt they get free reign to visit the senior centers outside of the prison walls.

•Bridges, tunnels and other-public works projects
Let's avoid using prisoners for any kind of "tunnel budget", okay?

•Emergency services
I'm guessing these services include the police and fire departments, who likely are the ones catching the guys who wind up in prison. Having them already in prison doesn't seem like much of a reason to get extra police officers, except for the offchance of an escape. In which case you'd want some extra police officers. And firefighters, if the escapee is an arsonist. And medical personnel in ambulances if the escapee is a violent criminal.

Census information affects the numbers of seats your state occupies in the U.S. House of Representatives
Well, if the argument is "we have more voters, we need their weight to be adequately represented as such in Washington D.C., then it's almost a moot point. Convicted felons don't get to vote at all in like 12 states. True, some states are more lenient (and 2 let convicted felons vote, even while in prison), but again this seems like a strange line to cross.

Census data is also used to advocate for causes, rescue disaster victims, prevent diseases, research markets, locate pools of skilled workers and more
I'm not really sure how the "in jail" population fits into market research or the job market or disaster/disease networks. I'm inclined to lean more towards the prison for the health reasons and the hometown city for the market reasons.

All in all, it seems that for most of the funding benefits, the city of the prison would be getting the lion's share even though a small minority of the census population would be reaping those benefits. On the other hand, there's not much you can say about those services being used "more" by the prisoners in their hometown, either.

I think my solution is that since the census is done every 10 years, every felon with less than 10 years left on their sentence should be counted at home and more than 10 years left should be counted in prison.

That way, prisoners who are released and most likely to wind up back in their hometown before the next census would be counted towards the funds for their hometown during these next 10 years. Those who will be stuck in jail for the next 10 years, they can be counted for the prison's city that will be housing and providing services for them for certain for those 10 years.

That's my idea, anyway. What do you think? Should prisoners be counted towards Hometown or The Big House? Leave a comment and let me know!

And then Digg this article!


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