Drug Sentences Driving Federal Prison Population Growth, Government Report Finds

In a report released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that growth in the federal prison population is outstripping the Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) rated capacity to house prisoners and that the bulge in federal prisoners is largely attributable to drug prisoners and longer sentences for them. That growing inmate overcrowding negatively affects inmates, staff, and BOP infrastructure, the GAO said.

The federal prison population increased 9.5% from Fiscal Year 2006 through FY 2011, exceeding a 7% increase in rated capacity. Although BOP increased the number of available beds by 8,300 during that period by opening five new facilities (and closing four minimum security camps), the number of prisons where overcrowding is occurring increased from 36% to 39%, with BOP forecasting overcrowding increasing to encompass 45% of prisons through 2018.

The drug war and harsh federal drug sentencing are the main drivers of the swelling federal prison population. The GAO reported that 48% of federal prisoners were drug offenders last year, and that the average sentence length for federal drug prisoners is now 2 ½ times longer than before federal anti-drug legislation passed in the mid-1980s.There are also now more than 100,000 federal drug prisoners, more than the total number of federal prisoners as recently as 20 years ago.

The negative effects of federal prison overcrowding include "increased use of double and triple bunking, waiting lists for education and drug treatment programs, limited meaningful work opportunities, and increased inmate-to-staff ratios," the report found. All of those "contribute to increased inmate misconduct, which negatively affects the safety and security of inmates and staff." The report also noted that "BOP officials and union representatives voiced concerns about a serious incident [read: riot] occurring."

For this report, the GAO also examined prison populations in five states and actions those states have taken to reduce populations. It found that the states "have modified criminal statutes and sentencing, relocated inmates to local facilities, and provided inmates with additional opportunities for early release."

Noting that the BOP does not have the authority to modify sentences or sentencing, it nevertheless identified possible means for Congress to address federal prison overcrowding. It could reduce inmate populations by reforming sentencing laws or it could increase capacity by building more prisons, or some combination of the two.

Or it could remove drug control from the ambit of criminal justice altogether and treat the use and distribution of currently illegal drugs as a public health problem.

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Thinking Clearly's picture

Take drugs out of this equation

Having private industry ensnared in this picture (private prisons) provides a ready made sold "affordable" solution. Who has more influence here - the voters or the corporations? Are our citizens united?

There is a reason for America's crown as prison capital of the world.

Drug War Must End....

Nobody Wins this futile fight

THE MONNEY

I've posted it in different columns here, but I'll do it again, just so you all know how this Prison thing works.

All Jails, Prisons, Police, Correctional Unions, Etc. Have a lot of money to contribute to Politicians. Even the "Service Industries" that count on contracts from Jails, Prisons, you name it, they all give money to Politicians so that the Drug Laws aren't changed. Lets face it, all Politicians are Whores. Why else would they spend millions of dollars to get elected to a Job that pays less that $200,000.00 a year. All of these Unions give money to both parties, so they're covered ether way. It's a Win-Win for them.

I could go on with this, but I think you get the idea. It's just going to take a very long time to ever really get these stupid laws off the books, & it doesn't matter who you vote for. A good example is Obama. He promised change but as soon as he was elected he reversed himself & answered to the big money. He's a whore too. 

What I saw during my 5 years in Federal Prison

I stayed 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense.

While I was there, I watched armed bank robbers come and go in as little as 17 months.  One lad was in for armed Post Office robbery with a sawed off shotgun...his stay, 20 months.

When I went to the parole board after 3 years 'behind the wall,' I pointed this out to the panel members.  Their response, "You must understand that yours was a very serious offense."

I laughed about that for 2 more years (as I still sat in prison), then wrote my book: 

Shoulda Robbed a Bank

When I was in, the entire Federal Prison population was just over 28,000.  Drug offenders made up 53% of that number.  I see today that population has risen to over 218,000.

Prison is big business.  It used to be called 'slavery.'

Please read Shoulda Robbed a Bank

I need the money...

It's available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Shoulda Robbed a Bank

Your comment, and links to your book, are currently at the top of the Cannabis Wiki home page:
http://cannabis.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

Anything is better than prison...gimme liberty or give me death.

Hey, Baked-not-fried...

Ten million thanks for this link...

Dadgummit...I need to sell some books...living under a bridge is kinda tough...but, it is one helluva lot better than a prison cell

Thank you, Hugh Yonn

Jailing non violents

Doesn't this reverse the intent of the enforcers? Doesn't jailing a pot smoker with criminals get the potsmoker an education in crime? Won't the casual pot smoker come out of prison bitter,angry and vengeful finding a need and use for the education they will receive at the hands of criminals?

A Billion Dollars

What's the difference between a million, a billion, a trillion?

A million seconds is 12 days.
A billion seconds is 31 years.
A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.

I hope Florida gets this on

I hope Florida gets this on the ballot and other states go for medical marijuana as well.  
Marijuana is a medicine and every day it remains illegal is a day that thousands suffer needlessly without it. Mary J.

Interesting article. Overall,

Interesting article. Overall, I had no idea about all this. It is a pity that there are no comments. We are happy we can talk about it. But I would recommend to a friend maternity photography

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