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“Over a dozen prisons in several different states”: Letter to Census Bureau describes temporary nature of incarceration

by Alison Walsh, August 5, 2016

The Census Bureau recently announced plans to continue counting incarcerated people as “residents” of prison locations for the 2020 Census. Before this rule becomes final, the Bureau is giving organizations and individuals a chance to send in comments.

Nick Medvecky submitted his letter today, and his experience is proof that a prison cell is not a residence. He explains, “I was incarcerated in over a dozen different prisons in seven different states.” And unlike students or travelers, he had no choice over his next location. “All of these sites were chosen by the prison system, not myself. They were always determined by the prison and the local communities as temporary residences.”

One address did remain consistent throughout Medvecky’s incarceration. “By my own intention as well as the determination of the prison administration, my prison file always contained a mandatory listing of my home address (from which I was initially incarcerated and to which I was expected to return).”

Medvecky was labeled a resident of a district that he never chose to reside in and that he never planned to return to, and he was not the only one affected by that misrepresentation. “Counting me as a residence in another Congressional District both improperly enhances representation in that temporary area and deprives my home area of its proper representation.”

He concludes: “Please count prisoners, like out-of-area students and other travelers, from their home residence, not their temporary one.”

The Census Bureau is accepting comments until September 1 on their proposal to continue counting incarcerated people where they happen to be located on Census Day.

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