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Incarceration: Jail and Prison Population at All-Time High (Again) -- Last Year Saw Biggest Increase Since 2000

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #492)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues

The number of people behind bars in the United States reached a new all-time high last year, with some 2.24 million people in jail or prison at mid-year. The imprisoned population jumped by 62,000 people or 2.8%, the largest increase since 2000.

Signal Hill jail, southern Los Angeles County, California
The figures come from the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) annual report on mid-year imprisonment numbers. One of every 133 Americans was behind bars on June 30, 2006, BJS reported.

America's title as the world's number one jailer -- with 5% of the global population, the US has 25% of the prisoners -- once again remains unchallenged, leaving contenders like Russia and China in the dust. Roughly 500,000 of the more than 2.2 million people imprisoned in the US are doing time for drug offenses, a number that goes even higher when the number of people imprisoned as parole or probation violators for using drugs is factored in.

The new numbers elicited a blast at the special interests who benefit from mass incarceration by Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Two powerful forces are at play today," said Nadelmann. "On the one hand, public opinion strongly supports alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent, and especially low-level, drug law violators – and state legislatures around the country are beginning to follow suit. On the other hand, the prison industrial complex has become a powerful force in American society, able to make the most of the political inertia that sustains knee-jerk lock-'em-up policies."

If the BJS figures are any indicator, lock-'em-up policies are still in vogue. Forty-two states and the federal system reported an increase in prison populations last year, with only eight reporting declines. More than 1.5 million people are now in state or federal prison, with an additional 700,000 in jail.

Most of the growth in the imprisoned population came in the state and federal prison systems, with the jail population increasing at a rate of 2.5%, the lowest increase since 2001. The federal prison population grew by 3.6% to 191,000 June 30, a figure that had increased to 199,000 this week. Nearly 55% of all federal prisoners are drug offenders.

In state prisons, the increase was largely due to a rise in prison admissions, up 17% since 2000. About one-quarter of state prisoners are serving time for drug offenses.

Racial minorities continue to take the brunt of both the drug war and the resort to mass incarceration in general. Black men comprised 37% of the imprisoned population, being locked up at a rate (4.8%) more than twice that of Hispanic males (1.9%) and nearly seven times that of white males (0.7%). Among black men between ages 25 and 34, a whopping 11% were behind bars.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Our founding fathers did not intend for their republic to become the world's number on jailer. That you can bet on. What a disgrace!

Fri, 06/29/2007 - 1:32pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

and then it was a life sentence and 360 months based on the word of criminals who sentence was cut short for telling........................hogwash in indiana,and illinois and my relative is caught up in the madness.hellllllllpppppp

Sat, 06/30/2007 - 6:23pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Obviously, your relative does not make enough money to afford a good lawyer. Isn't he making hundreds of thousands of dollars as a drug kingpin? That is who the "drug warriors" are, allegedly" after!!!

In reality, they are making a killing, on economically challenged (poor, mostly black), non-violent drug USERS. They are, occasionally, getting a big drug shipment given to them (bust), for big press coverage. All the while, ten times as much, in drug shipments, is likely, making it across the borders! And the corruption continues! Check the busted cops section of each copy of the Drug War Chronicle!

They make their living off of SICK PEOPLE!

Sun, 07/01/2007 - 9:59am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Here is a poem I wrote ... and wish to share widely. Cut and paste at your liesure. It does no good if nobody reads it.

I wrote it knowing that it will disturb some folks -- and of everyone that is disturbed, maybe a few will try to learn more about this problem, and a small number at the end of the day might act to try to change our terrible incarceration situation.

The drug war rapist in the poem = the prison industrial complex.

--- Mojo the Mellow

Drug War Rapists

They bus in young men and women, yanked by SWAT teams from home

I lock them in cells — almost never alone

Once the mandatory minimum sentences have thown away the keys,

armed with a truncheon, I club the backs of their knees.

In the dark of the night, new ones are forced to be whores,

deaf to their whimpers … I step past their doors.

Your son’s working for me, in that crowd in the sanctum

He’s surrounded … beat down … and he bleeds from his rectum.

I’ve got your sister alone too, separate from the others

trading sex with me for visits through glass with your mother.

Thank your government well — they turn a blind eye

those self-serving politicians, who let these things fly.

But they serve me well too, because they keep me employed:

an endless stream of drug war prisoners — fresh flesh to enjoy.

Sun, 07/01/2007 - 10:05pm Permalink

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