Pace Law Review: Prisoners of the Census: Electoral and Financial Consequences

by Peter Wagner, April 5, 2005  

The U.S. Census Bureau counts people in prison where their bodies are confined — in prison — not the communities they come from and where they are genuine members. This would be an item of statistical trivia, but the new numbers give it new meaning. More people now live in prison and jail than in our three least populous states combined. Organized differently, they would have six votes in the United States Senate. It is not trivia anymore.

A new article in Pace Law Review traces the unanticipated effects of this counting method. Prisoners of the Census: Electoral and Financial Consequences of Counting Prisoners Where They Go, Not Where They Come From [PDF] by Eric Lotke and Peter Wagner is the first academic article to quantify the impact of prison population counts on both the political process and on state and federal funding streams.