Reality of population drop worse

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NATCHEZ — The 2010 U.S. Census included a sizable chunk of people as Adams County residents who do not live in these parts by choice.

Approximately 2,000 inmates at the Corrections Corporation of America prison were counted as Adams County residents in the recent census, Adams County Correctional Center Warden Vance Laughlin confirmed.

That means that the county lost approximately 4,000 — approximately 13 percent — of its population in the last decade when excluding prison inmates at the Adams County Correctional Facility from the equation.

Email newsletter signup

Adams County’s population decreased to 32,297 in 2010 from 34,340 in 2000, counting the inmates.

The extra boost in census population explains the growth reported in District 5.

Inmates included, District 5 has 23-percent more residents than the average of all of the districts’ populations.

The census also counted 1,878 Hispanics in District 5, compared to an average of 68 Hispanics in Districts 1-4.

Most of the 2,567 beds at CCA are filled with inmates from Central and South America. An exact breakdown of the prison’s census count was not available by press time.

CCA has a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house 2,567 criminal alien offenders in Adams County Correctional Center. The offenders are low-security illegal immigrants who committed offenses in the United States and will be returned to their country of origin after completing their sentences.

Stacy Vidal, a public information officer for the U.S. Census Bureau, said each state is responsible for its own rules and processes for how they use census data to draw district lines.

“The census provides basic demographic information to help in the process,” Vidal said.

She said some states elect to remove the prison population from its redistricting figures or use the data in other ways.

Demographics specifically pertaining to the prison’s population will be available this summer when the census releases a category called Advanced Group Quarters, Vidal said.

Board of Supervisors Attorney Bobby Cox said he thought the county had the option to exclude the prison population during the redistricting process.

He said he would have to consult with the Mississippi Attorney General’s office for guidelines on dealing with prison populations when redistricting. But he would think that since the inmates cannot vote, they should not be included, Cox said.

District 5 Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter said the inclusion of the prison population cleared up a puzzling first impression of the census data for his district.

“That’s got to account for our (district’s) jumps,” Felter said.

Felter said he was not aware of additional housing being built in the last decade in his district, so he wondered how his district gained so many residents.

“I was thinking, ‘That can’t be right,’” Felter said.

Felter said he hopes he does not lose any residents in his district during redistricting because of over bloated population numbers.

“I don’t want to give any (residents) up,” he said.