The Vicious Cycle of the Census

Matt Kelley on puts the prison miscount in the context of why an accurate Census matters to urban communities.

by Peter Wagner, December 16, 2009

Matt Kelley puts prison-based gerrymandering in the context of why an accurate Census matters to urban communities on

The 2010 U.S. Census is about to hit full swing, and it’s critical that we commit to counting everyone.

The most directly pertinent census issue to the criminal justice system is the colossal mistake of counting prisoners where they’re incarcerated instead of where they’re from.

As Elena Lavarreda wrote recently in an excellent piece on, counting prisoners in rural districts gives undue political influence to farmlands while robbing power from poor inner-city populations. This is a critical issue and it needs to be addressed.

But there’s a broader issue, too. Not only will poor urban communities be counted without their prisoners, they’ll also be missing more than a million people the census classifies as Hard to Count. This includes people with no fixed address, or people who stay in a public housing unit but aren’t on the lease. These are people who might not be around on the day the count happens, or might be suspicious of a guy from the government coming to count them. Every person the census misses means lost services for the community and exacerbates the cycle of poverty.

– The Vicious Cycle of the Census.

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