Jail Bait

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Here's a first: States are fighting over prisoners. A bill before Congress would allow states to count in the upcoming census felons they export to other states for incarceration. Rep. Mark Green (R-Wisconsin) introduced the legislation, citing that his state ships 3,751 felons - 20 percent - to facilities in places such as Texas and Tennessee. By 2001, he added, the state could export as many as 10,000 prisoners, with taxpayers footing the bulk of the bill. Other areas face a similar overload. Thirty-one states send some portion of their prisoners across state lines, according to Green's office.

Wisconsin has a real interest in counting Cheeseheads gone bad. Last year, the state ranked 49th among U.S. states in attracting federal dollars. So it will take anything it can get - including a few thousand jailbirds - to help boost its ranks for the census and, as a result, secure more federal money. There's also the issue of reapportionment: Wisconsin is in jeopardy of losing one of its nine House seats after the census.

Not everyone supports the bill, however. Kenneth Prewitt, director of the U.S. Census, said the proposal would violate the rule of "usual residence," which is where a person lives and sleeps most of the time. The bill, if passed, would spark other exceptions to the residence rule, he told the House subcommittee on the census in June. A state that funds a student's schooling out-of-state, for example, might argue that the individual be counted among its population. For now, the lockdown in Washington continues.

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