Prison Policy Initiative
The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) is a criminal justice oriented American public policy think tank based in Easthampton, Massachusetts. It is a non-profit organization, designated 501(c)(3) by the IRS. It is the "leading public critic" of the United States Census Bureau's practice of counting prisoners as residents of the towns where they are incarcerated, and has conducted research in several states proving that this practice results in distortion of equal representation.
The Prison Policy Initiative's publications include "Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in New York," "Why the Census Bureau can and must start collecting the home addresses of incarcerated people," and "Phantom constituents in the Empire State: How outdated Census Bureau methodology burdens New York counties." It has also published the Democracy Toolkit , an internet tool designed for rural democracy activists, allowing them to use PPI's research procedures to study their own communities.
PPI published the first empirical, district-by-district analysis of the effects of Census Bureau methodology which counts prisoners as residents of towns containing prisons, not their pre-incarceration addresses, and has since been the leading critic of the practice (which it calls "prisoner miscount") and the distortion of equal representation it causes. Executive director Peter Wagner has testified on the issue before the National Academies and the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Apportionment. The Census Bureau's scientific advisors at the United States National Research Council have now recommended that the Bureau begin to collect prisoners' home address information, and the New York Times editorial board has repeatedly supported PPI's calls for reform. Once an unknown issue, the problem of prisoner miscount has now been identified as "the most controversial issue for the 2010 census."