The price of the War On Drugs? 1 in 136 Americans is in prison today.

Radley Balko over at The Agitator.com has a brief overview on the latest results of America’s ongoing war on drugs:

According to new data from the U.S. Department of Justice, one in 136 Americans is behind bars today, including an astounding 12 percent of all black men between the ages of 25 and 29. The United States represents 4.6 percent of the world’s population, but houses nearly 23 percent of humanity’s prison population. Certainly, part of this is likely due to politicians’ unfortunate habit of addressing every social problem with a new law, but much of it is due to our ever-more-draconian drug laws. A few more statistics to chew on from the latest edition of Drug War Facts, published by Common Sense for Drug Policy:

  • The number of people incarcerated in federal prisons for drug crimes rose from 14,976 in 1986 to 68,360 in 1999.
  • It costs U.S. taxpayers $3 billion per year to keep drug offenders behind bars in federal prisons.
  • Drug offenders have accounted for nearly half the meteoric growth in prison populations since 1995.
  • About half the population of U.S. jails and prisons are nonviolent offenders, more than the combined populations of Wyoming and Alaska.
  • Forty percent of the more than 1,000 state prisons in the U.S. opened in just the last 25 years.  The state of Texas alone has opened an average of 5.7 new prisons each year for the last 21 years.  Despite this, about half of federal and state prisons operate over capacity.

That’s just a small sample. Worse yet, despite all the effort to lock up drug users the rate of drug use has actually increased over the years. We still haven’t learned anything from Prohibition and it’s beginning to look like we never will. Go read the whole entry.

30 thoughts on “The price of the War On Drugs? 1 in 136 Americans is in prison today.

  1. Interesting. Just recently, they had a substantial opinion piece here in new Zealand saying basically, that they weren’t imprisoning enough people in NZ – and pointing too the US where crime had steadily fallen while incarceration has risen (I believe they claimed 10% reduction in crime rate, but I do not remember timeframe etc…).

    Was somewhat doubtful of that claim right there, to be honest. Though one thing struck me in fact – only about 10000 people in prison in NZ with over 20000 violent crimes being committed each year? That does seem low.

    Then again, I heard that the level where you call something a violent crime is rather low here, including just threatening of violence, I believe. All it comes down to is that statistics often tell you more about who made them than about reality, I guess.

  2. One thing the article doesn’t point out, but I think is important, is that once you are convicted of a felony, you lose the right to vote.  I wonder how many people convicted of non-violent drug offenses there are.  They certainly can’t vote to have drug laws changed because they have been disenfranchised.  I tend to think this has encouraged Republican control of government, since many African-Americans vote Democrat.  You can make the argument that people involved with drugs tend to be apolitical, which I acknowledge, but lots of people either stop taking drugs or learn to use them responsibly.  Having your right to vote taken away is permanent, unless you can get a judge to grant it again.
    I guess I am arguing that not only are drug laws functioning as a social control mechanism, but also as a political control mechanism as well.

  3. NeonCat: Having your right to vote taken away is permanent, unless you can get a judge to grant it again.

    And, I presume if you’re a black man you have to prove, somehow, that you’re twice as white as a white man.  rolleyes

  4. One thing the article doesn’t point out, but I think is important, is that once you are convicted of a felony, you lose the right to vote.

    This is important to most Americans how ?
    Most Americans really don’t prefer to excercise this right, by any measures i can find.  To me, dis-enrollment from voter logs is a cost-saving measure that should be offered to more Americans when they file their national income tax:

    [] Check here if you Would like to save an extra .05% on your future income tax by enrolling in the Non-Voting Citizen Savings Plan.

    I bet more Americans would opt-in then vote each year.

    rob@egoz.org

  5. Just because the franchise isn’t exercised doesn’t mean it is worthless.  A great many of the people turned away in the 2000 Presidential election in Florida had names that were the same as felons.

    Voting is the primary difference between being a citizen and being a resident.

    So you can cynically say it doesn’t matter if one can vote or not, and to a certain extent you may be correct in this age of crooked voting machines and legalized gerrymandering.  But maybe if people did give a damn about the vote, and considered themselves OWNERS of government instead of being owed by it, our nation would be in a lot better shape.

  6. [] Check here if you Would like to save an extra .05% on your future income tax by enrolling in the Non-Voting Citizen Savings Plan.

    I think this is a great idea.  But why stop there?  Let’s set up Ethical Suicide Parlors:
     

    In 2BR0TB [Kilgore Trout, aka Kurt Vonnegut] hypothecated an America in which almost all of the work was done by machines, and the only people who could get work had three or more Ph.D’s. There was a serious overpopulation problem, too.

      All serious diseases had been conquered. So death was voluntary, and the government, to encourage volunteers for death, set up a purple-roofed Ethical Suicide Parlor at every major intersection, right next door to an orange-roofed Howard Johnson’s. There were pretty hostesses in the parlor, and Barca-Loungers, and Muzak, and a choice of fourteen painless ways to die. The suicide parlors were busy places, because so many people felt silly and pointless, and because it was supposed to be an unselfish, patriotic thing to do, to die. The suicides also got free last meals next door.

      And so on. Trout had a wonderful imagination.

      One of the characters asked a death stewardess if he would go to Heaven, and she told him that of course he would. He asked if he would see God, and she said, “Certainly, honey.”

      And he said, “I sure hope so. I want to ask Him something I never was able to find out down here.”

      “What’s that?” she said, strapping him in.

      “What the hell are people for?”

  7. Indeed.  What the hell are people for?  One thing they’re for is fertilizer: Soylent Green, but less directly.  What they’re for during their lives is not so obvious.  Religions would have us believe that people are “for” the glory of God, one way or another.  I believe that this question, and a great deal of the basis of religious thought, conceals a hidden assumption: that there is a reason for being, and it exists independently from our thoughts, and is somehow inherent in the world.  But if you view the world through Darwinist glasses, this question becomes meaningless, or perhaps better said, more precise:  when, and how, did the question “what for?” evolve?  Asked this way, I would answer: people have the freedom, and the burden, of deciding for themselves what they are for.

  8. Zilch

    What the HELL are people for?  4 the Three persons in the Word HELL, and the avenger!

    King Solomon
    Ecc. 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

    For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing,whether it be good or whether it be evil.

  9. Zilch: If I get to choose

    Emma was a horn-bag, but it was always her predecessor Cathy for me.
    She went on to become Pussy Galore.
    I just IMBd her – she was 3 years younger than mum.
    Gawd. An Oedipus thing at 14. How embarrassing. red face

  10. Cathy is the Old Testament, Mrs. Peel the New Testament.
    And Tara King? Scientology. wink

  11. Zilch: Cathy is the Old Testament, Mrs. Peel the New Testament.
    And Tara King? Scientology.

    Great way to put it! I agree completely. For me, Emma Peel was the greatest.

  12. Zilch   5/27/06

    After rejecting the Truth

    or perhaps better said, more precise:  when, and how, did the question “what for?

  13. Mike:

    Zilch 5/27/06

    After rejecting the Truth

    or perhaps better said, more precise:  when, and how, did the question “what for?

  14. Apparently I’ve just dropped acid.

    Damn, and I bet it rolled under the cooker…

  15. Michael- you’ve really made me think.  Old-fashioned guy that I am, I’m only really familiar with the King James Bible, and here’s what it says in Romans 1:23:

    And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

    Whereas your version has

    and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of fowls, and of quadrupeds, and of reptiles.

    Now, when I read “creeping things”, years ago, that creeped me out- I mean, who wants to worship a worm?  I threw the Bible down and became a heathen.  But if the image of God can be a cool reptile, say a T.Rex, I believe!  Glory be to Jesus!

  16. Zilch

    On what Terms, Friend or Enemy

    But if the image of God can be a cool reptilesay a T.Rex,,

      so, you want to look and act like one Too!

    No, I prefer the Human Kind, who have Beauty to the Max, I would say, that Eve must have been the Most Beautiful All…

    Ladies in Austria arn’t to bad either, where I single.

  17. On what Terms, Friend or Enemy

    Not sure what you mean here, Michael.  But I agree with Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend”.

    Ladies in Austria are indeed not too bad, and they have the advantage over Eve that they are incarnate.

  18. Az igaz, Sadie.  But luckily, lots of those Hungarian women are here in Vienna…  smile

  19. Michelle: I would say, that Eve must have been the Most Beautiful All…

    Ah mate, she was prob’ly a 3 outa 10 at best. I fucked one once. LOL

  20. I wrote this more than a few minutes ago in response and I was searching where to put it …

    But luckily, lots of those Hungarian women are here in Vienna…

    Every time I hear/see the word Vienna I think of ‘The 3rd Man’. I think I saw it in my teens. I Do know it was many years till I stayed awake [straight/sober enough] to see the lot. Recently, on the box, there was a dissection of the movie – thought of Zilch being there most of the time. smile

  21. I know this is going to be hard to believe, but I live in Vienna and have never seen The Third Man, and I live in Austria and have never seen “The Sound of Music”.  I think I can probably imagine “The Sound of Music” well enough to not have to see it.

  22. Zilch

    No doubt T Rex, could be your worst enemy, or rather Friendly No… If you want him for a Deity, guess you’ll have to change your nature, in order to Relate.

    Girls in Austria are incarnate, for a While, I’m looking for the Ones Transformed in the Kingdom, what you see is Temporary, what is not seen is Eternal….JC is the Most Beautiful and to be No 1

    S Lady
    Beautiful Girls, are Like flowers, there everywhere!

  23. what you see is Temporary, what is not seen is Eternal

    What I see is temporary?  I’ll go along with that.
    What is not seen is eternal?  That means that thoughts, music, and the Invisible Pink Unicorn are eternal.  Okay…

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