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Counting inmates where they’re from, not where they’re incarcerated

I’ve noted before that prisoners in Texas are considered for Census purposes to be residents of the county in which they are incarcerated, not the county where they were actually living at the time of their arrest. This tends to have a distorting effect on the real population of some smaller rural counties where state prisons are located. Via Grits, I see that the state of Maryland has now decided to change this practice so that inmates are counted as residents of their home counties. I think this is the right thing to do and if I had a magic wand to wave, I’d make that the national standard. The effect in Texas would be significant:

Prisoners disproportionately come from Texas’s largest counties. Harris County is 16.3% of the Texas population, but it supplies 21.5% of the state’s prisoners.[5] After adjusting for correctional facilities within the county, Harris County’s suffered a net loss of about 25,000 people as a result of how prisoners are counted.

Dallas County is only 10.6% of the Texas population, but it supplies 15.4% of the state’s prisoners.[6] This urban county lost almost 20,000 residents to rural prison hosting counties.

How the incarcerated are counted in Texas is of critical importance to an accurate count of Black communities. While Blacks are 11.5% of the Texas population, more than a third of the incarcerated people in the state are Black.

That was written in 2004, but I daresay the proportions are about the same today. Given the stakes for Harris and Dallas, you’d think there would be a bigger fuss about this. TAPPED has more.

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