US Prisoner Count Declines Again, But 330,000 Still Doing Time for Drugs

For the third year in a row, the number of people in state and federal prisons in the US has declined, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics reported Thursday. The figures do not include jail inmates.

At the end of 2012, there were 1,571,013 prisoners in America, down 1.7% (or 27,770 inmates) from the previous year. Breaking down the numbers (see below), that means that somewhere north of 330,000 people were serving time for drug crimes in US prisons at the end of last year.

The three-year decline in prison populations marks a shift in incarceration policies in the states in recent years. For three decades, prison populations had been increasingly steadily. In 1978, there were 307,276 prisoners; that number had climbed to 1,615,487 at the end of 2009.

Nine states (in numerical order: California, Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, New York, Florida, Virginia, and Maryland) saw decreases of more than a thousand inmates. California alone, however, accounted for more than half the national decline; its prison population decreased by 15,035 as its prison crisis-driven Public Safety Realignment policy diverted "nonserious, nonsex, nonviolent offenders" to local jails instead.

But federal prisoner populations are still increasing, albeit at a slower rate than over the past decade. The number of federal prisoners increased 0.7% (or 1,453 inmates) during 2012, driven largely by immigration law enforcement and, to a lesser degree, drug law enforcement.

In the states, 53% of prisoners were doing time for violent offenses (murder, rape, robbery, assault), while 18% were in for property offenses, 17% for drug offenses, and 11% for public order offenses (weapons violations, drunk driving, commercialized vice). But among the nearly 220,000 federal prisoners, a whopping 47% were doing time for drug offenses. With roughly 229,000 state prisoners doing time for drug offenses and roughly 103,000 federal drug prisoners, more than 330,000 are imprisoned for drugs in the US (not counting people doing jail time).

In terms of race, blacks accounted for 38% of all prisoners, whites for 35%, and Hispanics 21%. More black inmates were sentenced for drug offenses than white or Hispanic inmates.

The decline in the number of people behind bars also translates to a decline in the incarceration rate to 480 per 100,000 population. This marks the fifth year in a row that the incarceration rate has declined.

The states with the highest incarceration rates are all in the Deep South or the near Southwest: Louisiana (893 per 100,000 state residents), Mississippi (717 per 100,000 state residents), Alabama (650 per 100,000 state residents), Oklahoma (648 per 100,000 state residents), and Texas (601 per 100,000 state residents).

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

point taken. If I could amend

point taken. If I could amend the title to specify federal I would. However I do notice that their graph ends in 2006 ;) although I'm sure based on the trends at the end point that there isn't a major change in the subsequent years

also this shows population, not time served, which is slightly apples and oranges but I'm sure they are correlated.

In fact, one can argue, in

In fact, one can argue, in the Victorian Era, the United States was LESS of a bully than other nations. We maintained influence over the Americas, but did little to annex, colonize, or imperialize other nations. The Philippines were really our only colony, not taken traditionally but rather by beating the Spanish in a war ostensibly fought to support Cuban independence. And while being a colony of any power in the era must have sucked, without doubt, the Philippines were eventually treated better than colonies of other nations and granted a large amount of self-rule towards the end of their status as a colony. And it was not the United States that took the lead in the greatest Western bullying of the era: around with China.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School