Felons and Redistricting

Oregon State Senator Chip Shields has introduced SB 1028 that would change the way that prisoners are counted for the purposes of redistricting.

He was inspired by this group: the “Prisoners of the Census” project which is trying to get the Census to count prisoners based on their self-identified place of residence, not where they are incarcerated.

This is an interesting question.  What would it mean, for example, to allow a prisoner who is serving a life sentence to determine that his or her place of residence was the last place they lived, even though they will never live their again?  On the other hand, why do we count the millions of prisoners who are in jail for relatively short sentences as “residents” of communities whose whole economic fortune is bound up with incarceration?

I’d be interested in hearing how others think this will play out.  This is a new issue for me.