TRIGGER WARNING: I’m a terrible writer.
America has more people in prison per-100k population than any other country. That’s more than 1-per-100 US adults in prison. Our prison population is north of 2.4 million.
Here’s a quick fact list:
- 1970 prison population was about 300,000
- 1971, President Nixon declared the “War on Drugs”
- By 1980, the prison population reached >450,000
- In 1984, the Sentencing Reform Act was created.
- By 1990, the prison population was about 1.2 million
- As of 2014, the prison population is at about 2.4 million
Here’s some data on the current prison population:
- 48% are held for non-violent drug offenses
- 8% are held for violent crimes (other data says this is up to 39%, but it’s a hard bit of data to nail down)
- 11% are held for immigration
Here are some more factoids about the prison population (our justice system is deeply racist):
- Blacks constitute about 1 million of the 2.3-2.4 million prisoners
- Blacks are incarcerated at a rate of 6:1 compared to whites
- Together, Blacks and Hispanics represent about 60% of the total prison population
It’s hard to find data on other races/nationalities without digging into DOJ papers. I simply don’t have the patience to delve that far into it.
I’ve always been of the opinion that the American judicial system is broken and in need of work. It was after my time spent working for the Arizona Department of Corrections as a Corrections Officer II that I realized it wasn’t just broken, it was deeply corrupt, privatized and for-profit. The American judicial system gives incentives to convict more people for longer periods of time. I have yet to find a single piece of data that stands against my views.
The original goal of this was to challenge my belief that the prison system is broken. I’ve not only failed to challenge that belief, I’ve found more reasons to believe it.
What can be done to fix this? We have to start with state and federal legislators. Get them to end the war on drugs and to begin the process of legalizing these substances. If history has taught us anything, it’s that prohibition does not work. Treat it as a health problem, not a legal issue.
Contact your local representatives and let them know you don’t support the war on drugs.