New prison in Adams County, Miss. could be 30% of a district

by Peter Wagner, February 15, 2011  

The Mississippi Natchez Democrat is reporting that:

NATCHEZ — The 2010 U.S. Census included a sizable chunk of people as Adams County residents who do not live in these parts by choice.

Approximately 2,000 inmates at the Corrections Corporation of America prison were counted as Adams County residents in the recent census, Adams County Correctional Center Warden Vance Laughlin confirmed….

Stacy Vidal, a public information officer for the U.S. Census Bureau, said each state is responsible for its own rules and processes for how they use census data to draw district lines….

She said some states elect to remove the prison population from its redistricting figures or use the data in other ways….

Board of Supervisors Attorney Bobby Cox said he thought the county had the option to exclude the prison population during the redistricting process.

He said he would have to consult with the Mississippi Attorney General’s office for guidelines on dealing with prison populations when redistricting. But he would think that since the inmates cannot vote, they should not be included, Cox said.

I recently wrote to most of the counties with large prisons in Mississippi to let them know about a 2002 Attorney General opinion instructing Wilkinson County that prison populations are not residents of the county and should not be included in county districts:

Inmates under the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Department of Corrections … are not deemed “residents” of that county or locality, as incarceration cannot be viewed as a voluntary abandonment of residency in one locale in favor of residency in the facility or jail. For purposes of the Census, these individuals should have been counted in their actual place of residence. Such inmates should not be used in determining the population of county supervisor districts for redistricting purposes by virtue of their temporary presence in a detention facility or jail in the county, unless their actual place of residence is also in the county. (Opinion No. 2002-0060; 2002 WL 321998 (Miss. A.G.))

The prison in Adams County was so new that we missed it in our initial preview of the 2010 Census, so the county did not receive this information by letter. I’ll follow up by phone with the County Attorney. The new prison is so large that if the county does not fix the Census, one district will be 30% incarcerated, giving every group of 7 people near the prison as much influence as 10 people in other parts of the county.

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