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Budget battles endanger prison count

by Peter Wagner, October 30, 2007

The New York Times editorial page reported yesterday that a budget dispute between the Bush Administration and Congress is endangering the 2010 Census. In response to the budget shortfall, the Census Bureau has canceled next year’s practice count of people in prison, military barracks, college dorms, nursing homes, and shelters. Further cuts in Census preparations are expected unless the budget is restored by mid-November.

The Census Bureau picked San Joaquin County in California and nine counties near Fayetteville, North Carolina for the practice count because these counties contain the diverse populations, large prisons and military bases where the Bureau has historically had the most difficulty.

Congress should act swiftly to prevent further cuts to Census Bureau programs, and work with the Bureau to develop a funding plan that restores the test count of prisons and military barracks.

The Prison Policy Initiative has long argued that the Census Bureau needs to develop a new methodology to count people in prison at their home addresses. With the 2010 Census rapidly approaching, the Bureau should be taking large steps forward, not being forced backwards. As the New York Times reminds us, an accurate count is essential to representative democracy.

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