NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day.  This is the 38th in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.


Enumeration of persons in federal and state and local prisons and jails required the Census Bureau to obtain the cooperation of the authorities in charge of those facilities. 


Federal Prisons


Federal prisons were under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice's Bureau of Prisons (BOP).  On March 10, 1950, BOP Director James V. Bennett sent a memorandum to "All Wardens at Superintendents" that outlined 1950 census procedures for BOP facilities:


(1)  BOP employees "who will be appointed Special Census Agents without compensation" would enter information on prisoners confined in the institution on April 1, 1950, onto the standard Form P1, 1950 Census of Population and Housing, from information in BOP's "central file." The Warden or Superintendent would select the BOP employees detailed to this task.  The enumeration was to include "those not under sentence and those awaiting removal to other institutions."


(2) Prisoners who entered the institution "during the enumeration" were to be enumerated on the institution's Form P1 if there was doubt the person had not already been enumerated elsewhere.


(3) BOP staff members and "their households living on the institution reservation" would be enumerated "by personal interview by regular Census enumerators as part of the general population enumeration" as arranged by the Census District Supervisor with the Warden.


(4)  Housing questions on the reverse side of the Form P1 would be asked concerning the housing in which on-site staff members and their households resided, but not of the prison structures housing prisoners.  (The housing side of the Form P1 was not microfilmed, are not extant, and will not be part of the 1950 census release.)


(5)  Form A1, Agriculture Questionnaire, would be completed by the Warden if agriculture operations were conducted at the institution.  (Agriculture forms were not microfilmed, are not extant, and will not be part of the 1950 census release.)


State and Local Prisons and Jails


The Census District Supervisor was responsible for making arrangements with the officials responsible for state and local jails and prisons that "would assure the complete enumeration of the institution without interfering with the normal operations of the establishment."  Those arrangements probably mirrored the ones established for federal facilities. 




Information for this post was primarily obtained from "Binder 36-E - Penal Institutions" (NAID 205683291), particularly the Memorandum "To All Wardens and Superintendents" Re:  1950 Census of the United States," March 10, 1950, images 27-28, which was also reproduced in the District Supervisor's Program Manual, Appendix A, Pages 30-32.  This file also contains information provided to U.S. Attorneys in case they received inquiries from the public about the legality of the census and the questions asked; enumeration of Coast Guard facilities in the United States and abroad; and correspondence about enumerating prisoners in Florida.