Drug War: Fail
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group and member of the Global Drug Commision, has an op-ed at CNN on the failure of the war on drugs.
Here we are, four decades after Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs in 1971 and $1 trillion spent since then. What do we have to show for it?
The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, with about 2.3 million behind bars. More than half a million of those people are incarcerated for a drug law violation. What a waste of young lives.
In business, if one of our companies is failing, we take steps to identify and solve the problem. What we don't do is continue failing strategies that cost huge sums of money and exacerbate the problem. Rather than continuing on the disastrous path of the war on drugs, we need to look at what works and what doesn't in terms of real evidence and data.
Our federal prisons are operating at 38% over-capacity.
BOP’s population has increased from about 145,000 in 2000 to about 217,000 in 2011 and BOP is operating at 38 percent over capacity.
According to a September, 2012 GAO report, 48 percent of the inmates in the Bureau of Prisons were serving sentences for drugs. Inmates are being double and triple bunked. The percentage of crowding in male medium security facilities is at 51 percent and at 55 percent in high security level facilities. At the end of 2011, 81 percent of male inmates housed in low security facilities were triple bunked.
According to BOP and our observations, the growth of the federal inmate population and related crowding have negatively affected inmates housed in BOP institutions, institutional staff, and the infrastructure of BOP facilities, and have contributed to inmate misconduct, which affects staff and inmate security and safety....The growth in the inmate population affects inmates’ daily living conditions, program participation, meaningful work opportunities, and visitation.
...As a result of BOP actions to increase available bed space in its institutions to accommodate the growing federal inmate population, more inmates are sharing cells and other living units, which brings together for longer periods of time inmates with a higher risk of violence and more potential victims.
On November 29, the Bureau of Justice Statistics published its report, 2011 Correctional Populations in the United States.
- At year end 2011, about 1 in every 50 adults in the U.S. was supervised in the community on probation or parole while about 1 in every 107 adults was incarcerated in prison or jail.
- 7 million adults were supervised about 7 million adults. 1 in every 34 adult
residents in the U.S. was under some form of
As to the incarcerated: The total number for 2011 is 2,239,800
- 214,774 Federal inmates
- 1,289,376 State inmates
- 735,601 Inmates in local jails
- 1,504,150 in state prisons
The U.S. now has the highest incarceration rate in the world.
What happens when you change minor drug offenses from a crime to a civil infraction? California has new statistics: adult arrests rates for marijuana plummeted by 86%, from 54,900 in 2010 to 7,800 in 2011, "levels not seen since before the Summer of Love." The statistical tables are here.
Marijuana manufacture and sales felonies fell from 16,600 in 2010 to in 14,100 2011, a rate decline of 10% among youths and 17% among adults. Overall, marijuana arrests dropped 70% in California from 2010 to 2011.
According to the National Institute of Health, in 2011, marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug, with 18.1 million current users. 8.0 million persons aged 12 or older were users of drugs other than marijuana. Put another way, 80.5% of current drug users used only marijuana while 19.5% used other drugs and not marijuana, and 16.2 % used marijuana and other drugs. 5 million Americans age 12 and older used marijuana daily in the last year.
The SAMSA report also finds 22.5 million Americans aged 12 or older were current illicit drug users, meaning they had used a drug within the past month.
As to cocaine, 3,628,000 Americans aged 12 or older used cocaine in 2011, of whom 2,375,000 were White, 353,000 were Black or African-American, 655,000 were Hispanic or Latino. The statistical tables are here.
There were 1,531,251 arrests for drug law violations in 2011. 81.8% (1,252,563) were for possession of a controlled substance. Only 18.2% (278,687) were for the sale or manufacturing of a drug.
Many more statistics are available at Drug War Facts.
Mass incarceration is not the answer. The War on Drugs is an expensive failure.
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