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Power and the People The U.S. Census and Who Counts


People who are incarcerated present a challenge for accurate counting -- we know where they are, but what is the “right place” to count them? Since most prisons are located in rural areas, counting inmates where the prison is located can skew population numbers in that area, and along with that, political representation. The Census Bureau is aware of this problem, but Census 2020 will continue to count incarcerated people where they are housed. California has passed legislation to address this, and will use the incarcerated person’s last known address, rather than incarceration location, for redistricting.

The Census Bureau isn’t fully grappling with the realities of mass incarceration. That when you’re incarcerated, you’re not a member of the community that hosts the prison. You can’t go outside. Outside the prison walls, you have no interaction with that community; your family, your friends, your coworkers are all in your home community.

– Aleks Kajstura, Prison Policy Initiative