FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Peter Wagner, Assistant Director
Prison Policy Initiative
Cincinnati, OH (April 13, 2004) - The Prison Policy Initiative, an organization that conducts research and advocacy on incarceration policy, today released the first national analysis of how Census counts of incarcerated people distorts Census data.
"Too big to ignore: How counting people in prisons distorted Census 2000" looks at the figures for county population size, growth, race, ethnicity, gender and income.
"Fifty seven counties that Census 2000 reported as growing during the previous decade actually saw population decline without the inclusion of prisoners" said report co-author Rose Heyer.
There are currently over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States. Requiring prisoners to use the prison's address dates back to the original Census, but "it's an outdated concept that predates both modern uses of Census data and high incarceration," said report co-author and Soros Justice Fellow Peter Wagner. "Since the first census in 1790, the Census Bureau has continually updated its methodology. When evolving demographics and politics meant more college students studying far from home and more Americans living overseas, the Census policy changed in order to more accurately reflect how many Americans were living where."
The report includes national maps of the impact on county size, population growth, race, ethnicity and gender. "Too big to ignore" offers suggestions to data users on where to expect distortions in local Census data and argues that the Census Bureau should update its methodology on counting incarcerated people to count them at their home addresses.
The report is available at: http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/toobig/index.html
The Cincinnati-based Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) conducts research and advocacy on incarceration policy. Its work starts with the idea that the racial, gender and economic disparities between the prison population and the larger society represent the grounds for a democratic catastrophe. PPI's concept of prison reform is based not only in opposition to a rising rate of incarceration, but in the search for a lasting solution to pressing social problems superior to temporarily warehousing our citizens in prisons and jails. For more information about PPI or prison policy in general, visit http://www.prisonpolicy.org.
For more information including full color maps illustrating how Census counts of prisoners distort legislative redistricting, see http://www.PrisonersoftheCensus.org