Justice Department Report: 100,000 More Americans Behind Bars 1/23/98

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As of June 30, 1997, there were more than 1,700,000 Americans behind bars, up from 1,600,000 one year earlier, according to figures released by the Justice Department on Sunday. That total means that as of the middle of last year, one of every 155 Americans were incarcerated either in federal or state prisons, or in local jails. At the dawn of the War on Drugs, in 1972, there were 200,000 Americans incarcerated.

The increase of 6% was only slightly below the average increase of 6.5% during the years 1990-1997. The largest increase was in local jails, at 9.4% while state and federal prison populations grew by about 4.7%.

Jerome Miller, author of Search and Destroy: African Americans and the Criminal Justice System, a fellow at the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, spoke with The Week Online about these figures.

"That number, one in every 155 Americans incarcerated is shocking in its own right. But if they wanted to let the public in on a real tragedy, they could have easily included the fact that the number for African American males is one in ten incarcerated. Almost 600,000 in prisons alone. And it's very clear that the drug war is the driving force behind these numbers."

"According to the FBI statistics, only 23% of new admissions to jails are for violent offenses, and even that is inflated to a large degree both by how we define a violent offense, and by the fact that prosecutors are encouraged by the system to overcharge. Somewhere between 70 and 80% of those involved no actual physical contact, but only a threat or perceived threat. Of course, much of the real violence, and that certainly does exist, is itself driven by the black market in drugs and the effects of prohibition."

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Issue #26, 1/23/98 New York City Mayor Giuliani is Caught Suppressing Report Of His Own Aids Commission On Needle Exchange | ...But Gets $120 Million from Clinton For More Cops For His New Zero Tolerance Drug War | Justice Department Report: 100,000 More Americans Behind Bars | Two Southern California Medical Marijuana Clubs Targeted by Law Enforcement | 17 Year-Old First Time Offender Faces 10 Years for Role in $20 Marijuana Sale: Excerpt from the Norml Weekly News Bulletin | HHS to Conduct Binding Review of Marijuana's Prohibitive Status: Excerpt from the Norml Weekly News Bulletin | Legal Marijuana Smokers Testify at Institute of Medicine's Public Hearing on Medicinal Marijuana | Forums: Boston 1/29, Minneapolis 2/5, San Francisco 5-Feb | New Hampshire Man Kept Behind Bars for Refusing to Acknowledge God in his Recovery | Penn State Professor Protests Pot Laws with One-Man Smoke-in | Miami School Drug Test Plan Altered | Editorial: From Dr. King's Dream to Drug War Nightmare
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