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<b>Feature: Drug War Prisoner Count Over Half a Million, US Prison Population at All-Time High</b>
Drug War Chronicle ^ | 10/28/05

Posted on 10/28/2005 3:42:12 PM PDT by JTN

More than half a million people were behind bars for drug offenses in the United States at the end of last year, according to numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In a report released Sunday, Prisoners in 2004, the Justice Department number-crunchers found that people sentenced for drug crimes accounted for 21% of state prisoners and 55% of all federal prisoners.

This report did not quantify the number of jail inmates doing time on drug charges in 2004, but an earlier BJS report put the percentage of jail inmates doing time for drug crime at 24.7% in 2002. Given the slow upward trend in drug prisoners as a percentage of all jail prisoners, DRCNet estimates that given a mid-year 2004 jail population of 714,000, approximately one-quarter, or 178,000 people were sitting in jail on drug charges at that time. With 178,000 drug prisoners in jail, more than 87,000 federal drug prisoners, and more than 266,000 state drug prisoners, the total number of people doing time for drugs in the United States last year exceeded 530,000.

Drug war prisoners make up only about one-fourth of an all-time high 2,268,000 people behind bars in the US, up 1.9% from 2003. But while the imprisonment juggernaut continues to roll along, there are faint signs that its growth is slowing. Last year's 1.9% increase in prison and jail population was lower than the year before (2.0%) and lower than the 3.2% average annual growth rate for the past decade.

Of the nearly 2.7 million people behind bars last year, 50.5% were serving time for violent crime. That means that more than 1.3 million people were imprisoned for nonviolent offenses, mainly property and drug crimes.

The still rising prison population comes after a decade of declines in violent and property crime. According to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reports, violent crime declined 2.2% last year and has dropped a whopping 32% since 1995. Property crime rates have also declined, although not so dramatically, dropping 23% since 1985.

Even as violent and property crime rates have declined, drug arrests have continued to climb, reaching more than 1.7 million last year. The consequences of those arrests show up in the ever-increasing drug war prisoner numbers.

With an incarceration rate of 724 per 100,000 inhabitants, the United States is the unchallenged world leader in both raw numbers and imprisonment per capita. With a global prison population estimated at nine million, the US accounts for about one-quarter of all prisoners on the planet. In terms of raw numbers, only China, with almost four times the population of the US, comes close with about 1.5 million prisoners. Our closer competitors in incarceration rates are Russia (638 per 100,000) and Belarus (554), according to the British government's World Prison Population report.

"The nation does not have to lock more people up to have safer communities," said Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, a sentencing reform research and advocacy group. "Rather than lead the world with the highest incarceration rate, we should follow the states and regions that are reducing prison populations, reducing crime, and investing in communities."

"The overall numbers are sort of discouraging," said Marc Mauer, assistant director of the sentencing reform group The Sentencing Project. "Crime has gone down for 10 years now, but prison numbers are still going up. This is in large part due to the impact of harsher sentencing policies, like three-strikes laws and cutbacks in parole. In recent years, we have not seen a dramatic change in the number of people going to prison; it's just that people are being held longer in prison," he told DRCNet. "It is not clear that this harsh sentencing provides a lot of additional benefits in terms of public safety, and it is expensive both in terms of dollars and in its impact on people's lives."

The numbers for drug offenders were equally discouraging. "We have almost half a million people behind bars for drug offenses," Mauer pointed out. "We had a record number of drug arrests last year. In recent years, we've seen hundreds of drug courts open up, but that doesn't appear to be significantly cutting into the growth of drug prisoners."

Especially notable this year was the continuing increase in women prisoners. Their numbers increased 4% to nearly 105,000, continuing the steady rise in their numbers over the past decade. In 1995, 68,000 women were behind bars. A larger percentage of women state prisoners, 31% are doing time for drug crimes than are men (21%).

"The increase in women prisoners is very much related to drug issues, even more so than men," said Mauer. "Women are more likely to be locked up for a drug offense."

Black and Hispanic prisoners are also more likely to be doing drug war time. More than a quarter of black and Hispanic prisoners are serving drug sentences, compared to less than 15% of white prisoners.

The federal prisoner population increased by 4.2% last year, with fully half of that increase driven by new drug prisoners. The number of people doing federal time for drug offenses has exploded in the last decade, increased from 53,000 in 1995 to 2003's 87,000. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is now the largest prison system in the land, with 180,000 inmates, followed by Texas (168,000), California (167,000), and Florida (86,000). The federal system is now at 40% over capacity, BJS reported.

While some criminologists have argued that crime has gone down precisely because so many people are in prison, not everyone is buying that argument. "Imprisoning large numbers of people has some effect on crime, but there is a point of diminishing returns," argued the Sentencing Project's Mauer. "Initial research shows that maybe a quarter of the decline in violent crime is due to incarceration, but that means three-quarters isn't. The rest has something to do with a relatively healthy economy in the 1990s, the reduction in crime and violence associated with the maturing of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s, and the efforts by police in some cities to reduce the flow of guns."

Violent and property crime is down, but discretionary drug arrests continue to go through the roof. "If police are looking to increase arrests," said Mauer, "drug arrests are easy. Low-level drug possession cases are plentiful if you want to make and prosecute them. That doesn't mean it's necessarily a great idea."


TOPICS:
KEYWORDS: bongbrigade; crime; drugs; lockemup; notbreakingnews; tossthekey; warondrugs; wod; wodlist

1 posted on 10/28/2005 3:42:13 PM PDT by JTN
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To: traviskicks

ping


2 posted on 10/28/2005 3:43:22 PM PDT by JTN ("We must win the War on Drugs by 2003." - Dennis Hastert, Feb. 25 1999)
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To: JTN

What's with the "b" symbols? Trying to bold the headline when you can't?


3 posted on 10/28/2005 3:45:28 PM PDT by NapkinUser ("It is a damn poor mind indeed which can think of only one way to spell a word." -Andrew Jackson)
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To: JTN
Those guys in the Sentencing Project are totally crazy.

Looks like we aren't done locking up the bad guys.

4 posted on 10/28/2005 3:45:35 PM PDT by muawiyah (/ hey coach do I gotta' put in that "/sarcasm " thing again? How'bout a double sarcasm for this one)
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To: JTN

We're seeing the emergence of a new ethnic group - Incarcero-Americans!

They already outnumber Native Americans. Isn't that special!


5 posted on 10/28/2005 3:45:54 PM PDT by headsonpikes (The Liberal Party of Canada are not b*stards - b*stards have mothers!)
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To: JTN

And the point of this is what? That we need more prisons?


6 posted on 10/28/2005 3:47:26 PM PDT by twas
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To: JTN
Interesting numbers - I want to see the numbers in relation to first, second, third or more time offenses. I'd wager that well over fifty percent of those prisoners have been arrested and convicted of crimes in the past...

While some might view this as evidence that the war on drugs is a failure, I view it as evidence that our judicial system is relatively healthy and our prison system is an absolute failure. One should want to do everything in their power to avoid going to prison for a second time, yet far too many people view it as their second or even first home.
7 posted on 10/28/2005 3:48:28 PM PDT by kingu (Draft Fmr Senator Fred Thompson for '08.)
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To: JTN

Good. Fewer dopeheads on the street to break into my house or car, commit DUI, burn down the apartment building when their meth lab goes bad, etc.


8 posted on 10/28/2005 3:48:45 PM PDT by Diddle E. Squat (SonofaBuckner Qualls and Lidge, king and queen of Choke City, USA)
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To: JTN
How about violent crime?

Street robberies? Residential burglaries? Hold-ups? Strong-arm robberies? Smash and grab robberies? Muggings?

If these are down then it is probably because the drug addicts are locked up.
9 posted on 10/28/2005 3:52:05 PM PDT by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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To: NapkinUser
What's with the "b" symbols? Trying to bold the headline when you can't?

Um...well...yes.

10 posted on 10/28/2005 3:52:46 PM PDT by JTN ("We must win the War on Drugs by 2003." - Dennis Hastert, Feb. 25 1999)
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To: JTN
(b>Feature: Drug War Prisoner Count Over Half a Million, US Prison Population at All-Time High (/b>

Nice try. You forgot (font size=9>

11 posted on 10/28/2005 3:53:27 PM PDT by ElkGroveDan (California bashers will be called out)
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To: JTN
GOOD !!!
12 posted on 10/28/2005 3:54:31 PM PDT by genefromjersey (So much to flame;so little time !)
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To: JTN
More than half a million people were behind bars for drug offenses...

And not one of them are behind bars for smoking pot. I wonder what they did...

13 posted on 10/28/2005 3:55:08 PM PDT by Libloather (Geena Davis isn't man enough to play Hillary on TV. Heck, BILL isn't man enough to play Hillary...)
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To: ElkGroveDan

Thanks for the tip. My HTML chops, eh, not so good.


14 posted on 10/28/2005 3:55:16 PM PDT by JTN ("We must win the War on Drugs by 2003." - Dennis Hastert, Feb. 25 1999)
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To: JTN

Instead of imprisonment, bring back the chain gangs and resurface the hi-ways and by-ways, pick up trash, etc.


15 posted on 10/28/2005 3:55:18 PM PDT by Mrs. Shawnlaw (Rock beats scissors, don't run with rocks. NRA)
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To: JTN

So should we buy stock in Zyklon-B ?


16 posted on 10/28/2005 3:56:37 PM PDT by Westlander (Unleash the Neutron Bomb)
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To: JTN

"Thanks for the tip. My HTML chops, eh, not so good."

I think he is lying through his teeth.


17 posted on 10/28/2005 4:00:31 PM PDT by NapkinUser ("It is a damn poor mind indeed which can think of only one way to spell a word." -Andrew Jackson)
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To: JTN

If we were really in a drug war, we would shoot every pusher, dealer, maker, mule or grower of criminal drugs.

These types of people put more kids on the road to ruin than anything else.


18 posted on 10/28/2005 4:03:21 PM PDT by HuntsvilleTxVeteran (I shot an error into the air. It's still going everywhere. R. A. HEINLEIN)
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To: twas; JTN; albertp; Allosaurs_r_us; Abram; AlexandriaDuke; Americanwolf; Annie03; Baby Bear; ...
"And the point of this is what? That we need more prisons?"
---


How about less prisoners, especially noncriminal ones...



Libertarian ping! To be added or removed from my ping list freepmail me or post a message here.
19 posted on 10/28/2005 4:07:10 PM PDT by traviskicks (http://www.neoperspectives.com/janicerogersbrown.htm)
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To: BenLurkin
How about violent crime? Street robberies? Residential burglaries? Hold-ups? Strong-arm robberies? Smash and grab robberies? Muggings? If these are down then it is probably because the drug addicts are locked up.

I see some problems here.

1. Drug users often do commit crimes to support their habits, but this is largely due to the fact that the black market status drives the price up to a ridiculous point.

2. From the article: "Imprisoning large numbers of people has some effect on crime, but there is a point of diminishing returns," argued the Sentencing Project's Mauer. "Initial research shows that maybe a quarter of the decline in violent crime is due to incarceration, but that means three-quarters isn't. The rest has something to do with a relatively healthy economy in the 1990s, the reduction in crime and violence associated with the maturing of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s, and the efforts by police in some cities to reduce the flow of guns."

3. I don't know whether or not there are any statistics to back this up, but some have argued that due to the large prison population, violent offenders must be released in order to make room for nonviolent drug offenders.

20 posted on 10/28/2005 4:07:36 PM PDT by JTN ("We must win the War on Drugs by 2003." - Dennis Hastert, Feb. 25 1999)
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To: genefromjersey
GOOD !!!

You think that, for example, this is good?

21 posted on 10/28/2005 4:16:13 PM PDT by JTN ("We must win the War on Drugs by 2003." - Dennis Hastert, Feb. 25 1999)
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To: JTN
Think Fenway Park in Boston full to capacity.

Think 65 Fenway Parks full to capacity.

That is how many prisoners we currently house.

Now if we could only charge these prisoners $20 for parking and give it all to me, I'd be able to deposit $45,630,000 into my checking account.

22 posted on 10/28/2005 4:17:23 PM PDT by SamAdams76 (What Would Howard Roarke Do?)
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To: JTN

yep


23 posted on 10/28/2005 4:25:44 PM PDT by genefromjersey (So much to flame;so little time !)
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To: BenLurkin

Another issue here is the degree to which drug prohibition actually increases crime. Work has been done showing a higher murder rate due to prohibition.


24 posted on 10/28/2005 4:27:23 PM PDT by JTN ("We must win the War on Drugs by 2003." - Dennis Hastert, Feb. 25 1999)
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To: genefromjersey

Never feed a troll.


25 posted on 10/28/2005 4:27:58 PM PDT by JTN ("We must win the War on Drugs by 2003." - Dennis Hastert, Feb. 25 1999)
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To: kingu

It has nothing at all to do with drugs. These guys cop a plea on drugs to avoid something far worse. We could keep them in prison longer if the prosecutors would stop plea bargaining.


26 posted on 10/28/2005 6:51:10 PM PDT by muawiyah (/ hey coach do I gotta' put in that "/sarcasm " thing again? How'bout a double sarcasm for this one)
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To: Libloather

OK, why exactly is marijuana illegal? No one has ever died from it, it is more benign than Valium, and it grows like a weed in anyones garden in all 50 states.

Who is afraid of marijuana? More specifically, what makes someone so afraid of marijuana that they try to instill their beliefs, by force and incarceration if necessary, on others?


27 posted on 10/28/2005 6:56:49 PM PDT by rasblue
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To: rasblue
Who is afraid of marijuana? More specifically, what makes someone so afraid of marijuana that they try to instill their beliefs, by force and incarceration if necessary, on others?

Well, let's see.. My neighbor's daughter was molested by a 'it's just marijuana' fellow who lived on the other side of the street. His defense in court was that he wasn't responsible, it was the drugs that did it. I suppose he's afraid of the plant now, considering he's going to be in prison for a long time.

The guys who stole my hubcaps did it to pay for their drugs...

The only two thefts we had at our store were both marijuana users, and both stole to pay for their habit. (One of them grew it themselves, but needed the money for the electric bill.)

These might be some reasons why it is illegal; I'm willing to listen to alternatives, but wholesale legalization likely won't be an option in either of our lifetimes.
28 posted on 10/28/2005 7:22:45 PM PDT by kingu (Draft Fmr Senator Fred Thompson for '08.)
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To: kingu

Anyone who blames marijuana or any other drug for their behavior is just making excuses, just like the people who blame their lousy parents.

As for the crime, people wouldn't have to steal to support their habits (although cannabis is not very psychologically addictive and not physically addictive at all) if marijuana were legal because the price would be divided by about 100 due to its no longer being black market.

On top of this, as I said in an earlier post, a higher murder rate has been linked with prohibition.


29 posted on 10/29/2005 12:54:57 AM PDT by JTN ("We must win the War on Drugs by 2003." - Dennis Hastert, Feb. 25 1999)
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To: JTN

And here I sit in my six figure home (how many six figures? None of your frickin' business!) smokin' weed. Heck, maybe I'm doin' something wrong.


30 posted on 10/29/2005 4:25:37 PM PDT by Wolfie
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To: Wolfie

I think you may have misunderstood me.


31 posted on 10/29/2005 5:05:44 PM PDT by JTN ("We must win the War on Drugs by 2003." - Dennis Hastert, Feb. 25 1999)
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To: muawiyah
If prosecutors stopped plea bargaining, we'd go bankrupt. Almost all cases are resolved by plea bargain. I think nationwide only around 2% of all felony cases go to trial. Even with such a small percentage going to trial, court dockets are full to the point of being backed up and judges, prosecutors, and public defenders have more cases than they know what to do with. If 100% of these cases went to trial, we'd need a whole lot more people to run the system, more judges, more bailiffs, more prosecutors, public defenders, court reporters, clerks guards, and so on. We'd need to build more courthouses and call an awful lot more people in for jury duty. And instead of only have 2.1 million in prisons and jails, we'd end up with tens of millions and we'd need prison beds for all of them.

We have an addiction to prison in this country. We use it as the silver bullet to fix everything. Our prisons are so full that local legislators are always trying to figure out a way to let people out earlier to make room for the new guys. On average, people will spend just around two and a half years in before they are released. That average includes the lifers and those who will only spend a few months.

People do not come out of prison better people either. A lot of them who go are just young screw ups, not serious threats to anyone. They go in, get beaten and raped, and then join gangs, white supremacist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, whatever, just for protection. They come out with jail-house tattoos, bad attitudes, a bunch of new criminal friends and new criminal skills. About 70% will be rearrested on new felony charges within three years of their release.

If it were up to me we would try to lock the really bad guys up a lot longer, but we wouldn't send nearly as many people to prison in the first place. The only thing prison is any good for is keeping the really bad people away from the rest of us for a while. Sending so many who aren't a great threat to the rest of us just costs us a fortune and probably turns a lot of these people into hardcore criminals who after going to prison are a much worse threat to society than would ever haver been had they not gone to prison.

Does it not bother you at all that we in the land of the free we lock up more people than any other country in the entire world? You know this isn't the way it always was. Our prison populations didn't start exploding till the late 1970's. Before that, they were relatively low compared to the rest of the world, around average. Prison incarceration rates stayed relatively flat, fluctuating only from slightly below a 100 per 100,000 on up to I think an all time high pre-1978 or so of 137 per 100,000. Then all of the sudden incarceration rates started doubling, tripling, quadrupling...just going crazy. There isn't anything conservative about our liberal use of prison at all. It's completely out of hand. Now we are becoming a nation with more and more laws, far more police per capita than we ever had, including these undercover secret police everywhere (a hallmark of a police state), and we lock up more people than either Russia or China or any other nation in the world for that matter. I can't believe this doesn't bother more people. It scares the hell out of me.
32 posted on 10/30/2005 3:05:12 PM PST by TKDietz
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To: TKDietz

Crime rate is still down.


33 posted on 10/30/2005 3:18:15 PM PST by muawiyah (/ hey coach do I gotta' put in that "/sarcasm " thing again? How'bout a double sarcasm for this one)
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To: muawiyah
Down from what? Crime rates have certainly been far lower before the prison population explosion. We still have one of the highest crime rates in the world, especially for a wealthy industrialized nation, and most of our industrialized peers have incarceration rates that are only a only a small fraction of our incarceration rates. Crime rates go up and down. Wait till the economy tanks again. We might see our highest crime rate ever even though we have more people behind bars than ever.

The thing is that most of the people in prison are only there for relatively short stints. Most are probably only in a few months. I work in the criminal justice system in a county with one of the highest incarceration rates in my state, and my state has a higher than average incarceration rate compared to other states. I rarely ever see people going to prison on sentences that will keep them in more than five years. Most will spend a few months, others from a few months to a couple of years, and only a few will spend five or more years in before being eligible for parole. If we were really locking up the really bad guys for a long time I'd believe that had something to do with "lower crime rates," but that isn't the case. Most of these guys are in and out in no time and there are way too many parolees for the parole officers to keep track of. Give it time. Our crime rates will go higher than they've ever been, because all of this revolving door prison craziness is just turning a lot of people into worse criminals with no future in legitimate society. We'll see a lot more organized crime among ex-cons, a lot more sexual abuse perpetrated by people who have been raped in prison or who were raped by people raped in prison. Overall crime will grow despite the fact that we lock up more of our people than any other country in the world.
34 posted on 10/30/2005 4:03:15 PM PST by TKDietz
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To: TKDietz
The crime rate now is lower than it was in the 1960s before we got wise to you guys and started locking you up.

Europe's crime rate is rising, and UK's rate of violent crime is cruising to stratospheric heights seen only in the third world. Over there they've taken to turning criminals loose.

Those guys copping the drug pleas ought to be happy we don't just execute them to save money on prisons.

35 posted on 10/30/2005 4:12:17 PM PST by muawiyah (/ hey coach do I gotta' put in that "/sarcasm " thing again? How'bout a double sarcasm for this one)
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To: muawiyah
"The crime rate now is lower than it was in the 1960s before we got wise to you guys and started locking you up."

You guys? What the hell is that supposed to mean? You're a jerk. I'd like to see you talk to me that way in person. Punks like you love hiding behind computer screens.
36 posted on 10/30/2005 7:42:42 PM PST by TKDietz
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To: muawiyah
By the way, a$$wipe. The crime rate is still higher now than it was in the 1960's.
37 posted on 10/30/2005 7:53:46 PM PST by TKDietz
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To: JTN

I think it's $27,000 per year to keep an inmate in the Cal Dept of Corrections.


38 posted on 10/30/2005 7:56:49 PM PST by bigsigh
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