Com156 - Prison Population of Drug Offenders

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Prison Population of Drug Offenders
With the United States prison population growing, did you know that almost every citizen knows at least one person that is in prison? Every day there are 200 new jail cells that are constructed in the United States (ZHENG, SALGANIK, & GELMAN, 2006). With the highest rates of incarceration than any other country prisons are full in the United States of America, and yet we continue to build more space and spend more tax dollars on building more prisons. This is an ever growing concern amongst American citizens whose tax dollars are going into this ever building problem. Something needs to be done to change the course of this problem before it becomes bigger than it really should be, and we do have a few options to consider. More than a quarter of our countries prison population is incarcerated for drug offenses with sentences of anywhere from 1 to 30 years (Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics, 2012). 30 years seems like a long time to spend citizen tax dollars on someone who did nothing violent towards another, and was only hurting themself with the lifestyle that they chose to live. Our prison systems could potentially be more effectively used by focusing more on incarcerating drug users based on the violent offenses they commit rather than the drug offenses.

Prison population has been a topic of conversation around the world for many years now, and has recently become an ever growing concern in the United States. More than 10.1 million people are held in penal institutions around the world, and the United States holds more than a quarter of the world’s incarcerated population. At 2.29 million people incarcerated in the United Sates (Walmsley, 2011), our prisons are full. The only country that has even close to as many prisoners as we do is China at 1.65 million people incarcerated (Walmsley, 2011). China’s total population is 1,354.1 million, and the United States’ total population is 308.4 million. China’s total population is more than four times that of the United States, and yet the United States prison population is almost one and a half times what China’s is at. This could be because of the luxuries that inmates get when incarcerated here in the United States that other countries do not provide for their inmates. Inmates in the United States receive cable television and new release movies, music and music players, and even an education; all of these are luxuries that most other countries do not offer their inmates. The luxuries that inmates in the United States receive cost taxpayer dollars to provide, the average cost per inmate is $31,286.00 per year (Henrichson & Delaney, 2012). That is a large lump sum of money, especially considering that the average American citizen only makes $46,000.00 or less per year. The cost of inmates on taxpayers could be a whole topic in itself.

Of the 2.29 million people incarcerated in the United States, 337,405 of them are in State or Federal prisons for drug offenses (Drugwarfacts.org, 2011); this number does not even include those in local jails. According to the US Justice Department, 27.9% of drug offenders in state prisons are serving time for possession, 69.4% are serving time for trafficking offenses, and 2.7% are in for "other." (Drugwarfacts.org, 2011). These numbers are too high. Penalties for trafficking are higher than possession, so 69.4% will spend more time taking up that prison space and tax dollars than the 27.9% of possessors will. Even at only 2.7%, the rate for those incarcerated for “other’ types of drug offenses is too high. In local jails alone, as of a 2002 federal survey there were 440,670 local inmates, a quarter of which (112,447) were drug offenders (Drugwarfacts.org, 2011). Of this 112,447, 11.1% are there on possession charges, and 12.8% for trafficking. At 112,447 people incarcerated in local jails, that is one third of what we already have incarcerated in State and Federal prisons. These numbers keep adding...
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