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.