About 13,500 inmates live in 13 prisons in one state Senate district in rural upstate New York. Sen. Elizabeth Little believes they should be counted in the census as area residents, says the Washington Post. Civil liberties groups and the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative says counting inmates distorts population numbers in New York and other states, showing rural areas more populous than they are and undercounting urban areas. States rely on population to draw legislative districts.
The Census Bureau has no plans to change the way it counts prisoners in 2010. Spokesman Robert Bernstein said, “We’re following the concept of ‘usual residence’ — where the person lives and sleeps most of the time.” The Prison Policy Initiative says that seven New York state legislative districts would not meet their minimum population requirement without including inmates.