New York City’s resident population count would increase by 36,000 if prisoners housed in upstate New York were counted at home. At a more detailed level, Travis et al. (2001:41) display tight geographic clustering of parolees in Brooklyn, New York, in a small number of census block groups. However, the exact correspondence between these locations and the prisoner’s preincarceration address (home of record) is not known.
In Section 2–C.2 and elsewhere in this chapter, we discuss the question of whether intent to remain at a location should be factored into the determination of a “usual” residence. The counting of prisoners raises a related question—should determination of a residence consider whether the choice of residential location is voluntary or not? The treatment of prisoners in the census is frequently compared to the handling of other parts of the broader group quarters population (as it was in the Bethel Park case) even though—by the nature of incarceration—prisoners do not choose to be at the facility, and generally do not have discretion in which prison they are held. The involuntariness of confinement is a strong barrier to the idea that prisoners are part of the surrounding community that hosts the prison.
All but two states deny persons the right to vote if they are currently imprisoned; some 32 states further restrict voting by prohibiting persons with felony convictions or who are in active probation arrangements from taking part in elections. Yet several states make clear in their laws that certain conditions—for instance, military service or attendance at college—that take people away from their place of residence do not void their claim to a residence (and voting rights therein), and confinement in prison is one such condition that is included in some state legal text. Article II, Section 4 of the New York State Constitution states:
For the purpose of voting, no person shall be deemed to have gained or lost a residence, by reason of his or her presence or absence, while employed in the service of the United States; nor while engaged in the navigation of the waters of this state, or of the United States, or of the high seas; nor while a student of any seminary of learning; nor while kept at any almshouse, or other asylum, or institution wholly or partly supported at public expense or by charity; nor while confined in any public prison.