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US Has 330,000 Drug Offenders in Prison

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #764)
Drug War Issues

The number of people in prison in America declined last year for the second year in a row, according to a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The number of prisoners at the end of 2011 dropped to just under 1.6 million, a 0.9% decrease over the previous year.

More than 330,000 were doing prison time for drugs in the US at the end of 2011. (
Of those 1.6 million prisoners, some 330,000 were doing time for drug offenses, including nearly 95,000 doing federal time.

There were 15,023 fewer inmates at the end of 2011 than a year earlier, but that number is more than accounted for by a single state, California, which reported a decline of 15,493 prisoners due primarily to an incarceration realignment program that has sent what would have been state prisoners to county jails instead. Counting just state prison populations, 2011 saw a decline of 21,164 prisoners, or 1.5%, again with California accounting for 72% of the decrease.

Overall, 26 states reported declines in prison populations, while 24 reported increases. While overall state prison population numbers are declining slightly, the federal prison population continues to increase, largely offsetting the decline in the states. The federal prison population increased by 6,591 prisoners, or 3.1%.

The growth in the federal prison population is largely driven by drug war prisoners. Drug offenders constitute 48% of all federal inmates, or some 94,600 inmates. By contrast, only 7.6% of federal inmates are doing time for violent crimes.

Among state prisoners, drug offenders accounted for 17%, or slightly fewer than one out of five. That means some 235,000 were doing state prison time on drug charges at the end of 2011, bringing the combined state and federal total to 330,000. That's a slight decline over a decade ago, but still represents incalculable human costs, as well as easily calculable financial ones.

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.


Uncle Bob (not verified)

330,000 people in prison for drug related "crimes".  This is no better than slavery.  The history books will not reconcile this repugnant behavior.  Thank God this War on Drugs is ending soon.

Mon, 12/17/2012 - 6:14pm Permalink
mxweed (not verified)

The modern Slave-Owners are the $igarette companies which think they own every actual or potential $igarette addict; and anything such as alternative herb cannabis, or the little pipes some of its users prefer instead of a Hot Burning Overdose Monoxide (HBOM) $igarette-- is considered a crime against their "property", just like in 1850 you could get lynched for helping a slave escape to CANNada or CANNecticut because, you know, that's His Property.

Tue, 12/18/2012 - 10:28pm Permalink

There are many federal non-violent marijuana offenders serving sentences of Life Without Parole for selling marijuana.  The Law office of Michael Kennedy has submitted a petition for commutation to the President for 5 of these inmates who are over the age of 62 and have served an average of 19 years.  They should be released.

Wed, 12/19/2012 - 10:37pm Permalink

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.'

ANY time in prison for a marijuana offense is wrong...whether the length of incarceration is 20 years or 20 is wrong! 

Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:33am Permalink
Dnola3 (not verified)

Your statistics are incorrect, there are only 1.6 million in custody in state and federal correctional facilities, there are actually 2.2 million in custody when you include local jails. This is directly from BJS. Page 8

Tue, 04/09/2013 - 8:22pm Permalink

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