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Incarceration Nation

July 11, 2009 - 10:51am
Richard Sutton by Richard Sutton

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I had a recent disagreement with a friend recently. He felt that Americans were no longer imprisoned for simple drug possession these days. I compiled some U.S. Department of Justice statistics to make my contrary point and a few other points as well...



In 1980, there were about 40,000 people in American jails and prisons for drug crimes. These days, there are almost 500,000.

Considering only adults, one in 100 Americans is Incarcerated making the U.S. the most incarcerated nation, per capita, in the world.

The source for all of this data is the US Dept of Justice\Office of Justice Programs\Bureau of Justice Statistics

Number of sentenced inmates incarcerated under state and federal jurisdiction per 100,000 population

1985 - 202
1986 - 217
1987 - 231
1988 - 247
1989 - 276
1990 - 297
1991 - 313
1992 - 332
1993 - 359
1994 - 389
1995 - 411
1996 - 427
1997 - 444
1998 - 461
1999 - 476
2000 - 478
2001 - 470
2002 - 476
2003 - 482
2004 - 486
2005 - 491
2006 - 501
2007 - 506

Violent offenses include murder, negligent and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, sexual assault, robbery, assault, extortion, intimidation, criminal endangerment, and other violent offenses.

Property offenses include burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, fraud, possession and selling of stolen property, destruction of property, trespassing, vandalism, criminal tampering, and other property offenses.

Drug offenses include possession, manufacturing, trafficking, and other drug offenses.

Public-order offenses include weapons, drunk driving, escape/flight to avoid prosecution, court offenses, obstruction, commercialized vice, morals and decency charges, liquor law violations, and other public-order offenses.

Source: Correctional Populations in the United States and Prisoners in 2007

Most serious offense of jail inmates, 2002, 1996, and 1989
Percent of jail inmates

Most Serious Offense 2002 1996 1989

Violent Offenses
Murder/a
Assault
Sexual Assault

25.4%
2.0
11.7
2.8
26.3%
2.8
11.6
2.7
22.5%
2.8
7.2
2.6
Property Offenses
Burglary
Larceny/Theft
24.4%
6.7
7.0
30.0%
7.6
8.0
30.0%
10.7
7.9
Drug Offenses
Possession
Trafficking
Other Drug

24.7%
10.8
12.1
1.8

23.0%
11.5
9.2
1.3
23.0%
9.7
12.0
1.3

Public-Order Offenses
Driving Intox/b
Drunkenness/c

24.9%
6.4
1.7
22.8%
7.4
2.0
22.8%
8.8
1.7

Note: Excludes inmates for whom offense was unknown.
a/Includes nonnegligent manslaughter.
b/Includes public and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
c/Includes drunkenness, vagrancy, disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, morals, and commercialized
vice.

Source: BJS, Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002, NCJ 201932, July 2004.

Summary findings

On June 30, 2008 -

  • 2,310,984 prisoners were held in federal or state prisons or in local jails – an increase of 0.8% from yearend 2007, less than the average annual growth of 2.4% from 2000-2007.
  • 1,540,805 sentenced prisoners were under state or federal jurisdiction.
  • there were an estimated 509 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents - up from 506 at yearend 2007.
  • the number of women under the jurisdiction of state or federal prison authorities increased 1.2% from yearend 2007, reaching 115,779, and the number of men rose 0.7%, totaling 1,494,805.

(at first glance it doesn't look like an equal opprotunity justice system either)
At midyear 2008, there were 4,777 black male inmates per 100,000 black males held in state and federal prisons and local jails (4.77%), compared to 1,760 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males (1.76%) and 727 white male inmates per 100,000 white males (.72%).



Related Content:

America, Land of the Imprisoned - Austin Raynor
Legalize Drugs and Criminalize Politicians - Jim Iannuzo
Self Defense - Richard Sutton


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