The Unites States often considers itself a leader among nations. Unfortunately, in the area of prison population, the U.S. takes the lead for all the wrong reasons. However, this huge prison population — attributable in large part to the imprisonment of non-violent drug offenders — actually saw a small but substantial decline over the last year.
Experts indicate that the United States holds almost a quarter of the world’s prison population and has long enjoyed the dubious distinction of being the country with the highest percentage of its population behind bars.
In 2011, the U.S. had 1.6 million state prisoners and federal prisoners. In fact, numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicated that out of every 100,000 residents of the U.S., 492 were sentenced to 12 months of prison time or longer.
Interestingly, the U.S. Justice Department released a report at the end of last year indicating that prisoner levels declined from 2010 and 2011.
California and 25 other states were responsible for this decline, after each state released at least 1,000 prisoners to address problems like increasing operating costs and overcrowding.
According to experts, while these numbers are somewhat encouraging, much work needs to be done. In particular, they point to the fact that drug offenses, not violent crimes, have made up the overwhelming majority of federal prisons admissions for quite some time now.
In particular, marijuana offenders make up a large portion of those jailed in federal prisons, which is curious in light of the fact that it’s legal for medicinal purposes in 18 states and several other states are now considering similar legalization measures.
The relationship between non-violent drug charges and the bloated prison system is one that must be addressed by state and federal lawmakers as soon as possible.
Stay tuned for further updates from our San Antonio criminal defense blog …
If you have been charged or are currently under investigation for any type of drug crime, be certain to contact an experienced legal professional.
This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
The International Business Times, “Drug offenses, not violent crime, filling up federal prisons,” Ashley Portero, Jan. 30, 2013