As you have seen from my 5-part-series on the Drug War, it is a flop. Part of the “flop” is the internment of drug offenders in prisons. Nonetheless, the current notion that the majority of our prison inmates are there for drug possession is spurious.
[Source: Obama’s Tragic Let ’em Out Fantasy, by Heather MacDonald]
Our state prison population (which accounts for 87% of the nation’s prisoners) is dominated by violent criminals and serial thieves. In 2013 drug offenders made up less than 16% of the state-prison population; violent felons were 54% and property offenders 19%. Reducing drug-related admissions to 15 large state penitentiaries by half would lower those states’ prison count by only 7%, according to the Urban Institute.
In federal prisons—which hold only 13% of the nation’s prisoners—drug offenders make up half of the inmate population. But these offenders aren’t casual drug users; overwhelmingly, they are serious traffickers. Fewer than 1% of drug offenders sentenced in federal court in 2014 were convicted of simple drug possession, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Most of those possession convictions were plea-bargained down from trafficking charges.
So, let us release those who do not belong in long-term incarceration. But, frankly, I don’t trust Obama or his Justice Department to be making these decisions.