A controversial measure that would change how the U.S. Census counts Illinois prison inmates is advancing in Springfield.
The census counts Illinois’ prison inmates as residents of the town the prison is in, not the town they came from.
That population can affect a region’s eligibility for government money.
State House members narrowly approved a bill Wednesday saying the state will start keeping track of an inmates’ last known address for census purposes.The measure passed with the bare minimum of favorable votes, 60-55.
State Rep. Charlile Meier, (R-Okawville), slammed the measure, saying it has cost his district more than 1,500 people, the approximate number of inmates at the Centralia Correctional Center in his district. Meier also questioned that in light of the changing demographics, if the City of Chicago, where the majority of inmates are from, would be paying for prison related projects and expenses, such as the water bill owed to the City of Centralia.
State Rep. Monique Davis of Chicago suggested those who have prisons in their districts have a financial interest in keeping their prisons full.
“Let’s see how many enhanced penalty bills will pass, let’s see how many new bills were put in the criminal code if that population is no longer valuable to certain groups,” she said.
However, one such bill that would increase penalties for firearms related offenses was proposed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It is estimated that if enacted, Emanuel’s proposal would increase Illinois prison population by nearly 4,000 individuals.
The measure still has to pass through the Senate before it could be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for his approval.