Currently, the way the census works is that prison inmates are counted as residents of the district in which the prison resides, not from where they lived prior to being in prison. This obviously, creates a weird dynamic in which these thousands of inmates skew the size of political districts, giving extra power to the constituents in those districts. The proposed solution, however, to just not count inmates in the census at all, is misguided and clear disenfranchisement. You might want to pretend that the 20,000+ in Wisconsin prisons don’t exist, but the whole point of the census is to count everyone — this includes our prisoners.
And then there’s the whole racial component to this — when African Americans make up roughly 6% of the total population in Wisconsin, yet nearly 50% of the total prison population — to not count them would significantly change the very demographics of our state, and inaccurately portray our diversity and racial make-up. Rather than sweep these individuals under the carpet and pretend they don’t exist, let’s give them the representation they are constitutionally granted in the districts from which they are from.
OWN’s solution: count the inmates from the communities in which they lived before going to prison.This will ensure representation for the inmates without skewing the drawing of political districts.
And let’s not forget: Ex-offenders must be given the franchise, immediately upon release from prison when they’ve returned to the community.