World Prison Population

That is one of my favorite quotes from Blow. “I went in with a bachelors of weed and came out with a masters in cocaine.”

We can use lines 1 and 2 and come up with the answer (assuming the numbers are correct):

drug state = 265,000
total state = 1,237,500
percent state = 21.4%

drug federal = 87,000 (rounded)
total federal = 158,000 (87K is 55% of it)
percent federal = 55%

drug all = 352,000
total all = 1,395,500
percent all = 25.2%

Good guesstimate, Phil! ;)

I don’t know if the numbers given at the website reflect this, but a couple of their little quips do. For instance, #13: “According to a federal survey of jail inmates, in 2002, of the 96,359 violent offenders in jail, 37.6% used alcohol at the time of their offense, 21.8% used drugs, and 47.2% used alcohol or drugs; of the 112,895 property offenders in jail that year, 28.5% used alcohol at the time of their offense, 32.5% used drugs, and 46.8% used alcohol or drugs; of the 112,447 drug offenders in jail that year, 22.4% used alcohol at the time of their offense, 43.2% used drugs, and 51.7% used drugs or alcohol at the time of their offense.”

Certainly drugs and alcohol contribute to many crimes, other than direct drug-dealing type stuff.

But if the argument is that drugs should be legalized or penalties dramatically reduced, then the above evidence doesn’t seem to support it. Alcohol, a cheap, legal drug, is involved in about as many crimes as “drugs” (presumably illegal narcotics). That weakens the argument that secondary crime related to drugs is mainly an issue of junkies feeding their expensive habit - even the ‘cheap habit’ (alcohol) contributes to a lot of crime.

A bit of caution: it’s not like boring middle class people with desk jobs take some coke or get drunk, and then immediately starting blasting and breaking in. To some extent the “what are you on at the time you break the law” numbers are “what’s your favorite drug anyway.” It’s not like people break into places to fund their booze habit; they break into places because they’re criminals, and they happen to enjoy being drunk in the process. Same deal for drugs, albeit to a lesser extent due to prices.

It’s time for Jason’s misinformed explanation of criminal causation!

People break the law because they think it will end up as a total benefit. They can either be miscalculating (under the influence, bad education, cultural issues, cussedness, just plain dumb) or correctly calculating (expected benefit vs. chance of getting caught & societal disapproval). On expected benefit, that would be money or status.

Reading over that list, it’s all pegged out in the US, isn’t it? Generational poverty, lack of legal advancement opportunities, use of alcohol or drugs to while away the grinding days, and a cultural fascination with get-rich-quick schemes, from the lowliest hobo to billionaries. On the specific drug impact - illegal drugs cost a ton of money and can make or cost you a ton of money if you’re involved.

On net, I’d say the economic and social issues mentioned with US society is what drives our crime rate. The caveat is that the illegality of drugs and the corresponding heightened money impact of criminal activty has an enormous amplification effect on the potential already there.

Well, Phil, you have to see those numbers as related to the part of the population that takes them. Would you say that more people use alcohol than drugs? And how many more use alcohol? I’d say we’re talking quite a disparity here, meaning drug addicts are vastly more overrepresented than the drinkers.

I don’t agree that the argument is weakened by those stats at all. Firstly they are not very specific. Do they mean that they drink alcohol or do they mean that the felon was drunk at the time of the conviction?

Secondly it doesn’t indicate any kind of causal relationship. People may have been violent because they were drunk or taking drugs, or this may have been purely coincidental.

Personally I don’t think many people are stealing to fund their alcoholism, although I’m sure some do. I think the situation is, as Anders points out, that there are more drinkers in society relative to drug takers and so the results are skewed by that.

at the time of their offense” ;)

Although for the record I agree with everything else you said. Which actually makes me feel a little bit dirty…

It’d be funnier if the felon were drunk at the time of his actual conviction.

Here is an interesting graphic on incarceration in the US.

The US being the world leader is old news. I’m more interested in Russia being up there with 5/7 of the US prison population (per capita).

I wonder what percentage of total incarcerations are people serving “minor” drug related sentences.

The bar chart at the bottom makes the whole graphic. What an inefficient allocation of resources.

Drug laws affect prison numbers in more than just direct “I got busted selling weed/coke” ways.

Illegal drugs have value, value that people are willing to try to steal or defend. There’s a ton of violent crime in that, crime that wouldn’t be there if it was legal because it would be too cheap to be valuable. We don’t see a lot of violence over who gets to sell Bud in a given neighborhood, do we?

Here’s something no one really mentions though: What if we did change the drug laws, and all those people out there making their living selling coke no longer had an income? All these people being run through the prison system, what if we no longer had reason to lock them up, where do they go and what do they do when they get there?

Are we to the point yet where we can wall off Manhattan or Los Angeles or pick an island somewhere and just dump prisoners?

Well, to start, since we wouldn’t need the prisons, we could convert them to housing. “You’re free to go! Welcome home!” That would work, right?

We could send them all to the moon where they’d develop the ideal Libertarian society.

Detroit… obviously.

That’s crazy - according to the chart, almost 2% of the state of Louisiana is incarcerated.

I don’t know about minor, but here’s a breakdown by violent, property, drug, and public order crimes: Home | Office of Justice Programs

Here’s a link to the BJS Prisoners in 2008 report: Home | Office of Justice Programs

Here’s a better overview of the change over time in drug-related crimes versus others. Looking at the change in everything since the 80s is insane: is for sale

lower prison population by giving out death penalty for B&E…

or better yet, build prisons in Afghanistan, ship all of our offenders there.

before the wrath of hivemind descends on me, I was joking.

Politicians compete on being the hardest on crime, they are now so hard, they must have a full time erection.