More than 50 per cent on inmates in U.S. federal prisons were jailed for drug offences, shocking new figures show.
The statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, reveal that out of a total inmate population of 215,888, 102,391 (that’s 50.8 per cent) were jailed for drug offences.
The second highest crime area was weapons, explosives and arson offences with a prison population of 30,509, that’s 15.1 per cent, according to the figures published on the Department’s website on May 28 of this year.
Murder, aggravated Assault and kidnapping Offenses made up 2.7 per cent with 5,473 inmates.
The drug offences relate to crime in multiple ways. Most directly, it is use, possession, manufacturing and distributing drugs classified as having a potential for abuse, such as cocaine, heroin, morphine and amphetamines.
But the offences also involve crimes such as drug trafficking and drug production controlled by drug cartels, organized crime and gangs.
The concept of drug related crime, however, has frequently been criticized for its failure to distinguish between the types of crime associated with drugs.
Use-related crimes are those that result from or involve people who ingest drugs and who commit crimes as an result of the effect the drug has on their behaviour.
The second main area is economic-related crimes where an individual commits a crime to fund a drug habit. These include theft and prostitution.
The third are system-related crimes resulting from the structure of the drug system, including manufacture, transportation, sale of drugs and violence related to the production or sale of drugs, such as a turf war.
The Washington DC-based Justice Police Institute, in its 2009 paper ‘Pruning Prisons: How Cutting Corrections Can Save Money and Protect Public Safety,’ said: ‘The number of people in state prisons for drug offences has increased 550 per cent over the last 20 years. A recent JPI report found that the amount spent on “cops and courts” – not rates of drug use — is correlated to admissions to prison for drug offences.
‘Counties that spend more on law enforcement and the judiciary admit more people to prison for drug offences than counties that spend less. And increases in federal funding through the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Grant Program have promoted increases in resources dedicated to drug enforcement.
‘As crime continues to fall in many communities, law enforcement will have more time to focus on aggressive policing of drug offences; this can be expected to lead to even higher drug imprisonment rates and crowded jails and prisons.
‘According to FBI reports, 83 per cent of drug arrests are for possession of illegal drugs alone. And regardless of crime in a particular jurisdiction, police often target the same neighbourhoods to make drug arrests, which can increase the disproportionate incarceration of people of colour.’
The new figures are sure to ignite the debate over whether drug offenders need more treatment instead of being dealt with through the traditional judicial system.
The National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers concluded after a two-year study that national standards must be developed to deal with drug offenders, and the role of drug courts should be reduced in favour of more treatment programmes
The figures come after a report earlier this year that showed that African Americans are eight times more likely to face jail for petty drugs crimes than whites convicted of the same offence.
The report, by the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, found 19 per cent of black defendants accused of minor drug-possession crimes in the state were sent to prison, compared to just four per cent of white defendants.
– Article from UK Daily Mail.