Growing Prison Population is Growing Problem 

  Growing Prison Population is Growing Problem 

Posted by CN Staff on July 27, 2003 at 15:49:04 PT
By Curt Anderson, Associated Press  
Source: Associated Press 

Washington -- America's prison population grew again in 2002 despite a declining crime rate, costing the federal government and states an estimated $40 billion a year at a time of rampant budget shortfalls. The inmate population in 2002 of more than 2.1 million represented a 2.6 percent increase over 2001, according to a report released Sunday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Preliminary FBI statistics showed a 0.2 percent drop in overall crime during the same span. 
Experts say mandatory sentences, especially for nonviolent drug offenders, are a major reason inmate populations have risen for 30 years. About one of every 143 U.S. residents was in the federal, state or local custody at year's end. "The nation needs to break the chains of our addiction to prison, and find less costly and more effective policies like treatment," said Will Harrell, executive director of the Texas American Civil Liberties Union. "We need to break the cycle." Others say tough sentencing laws, such as the "three strikes" laws that can put repeat offenders behind bars for life, are a chief reason for the drop in crime. The Justice Department, for example, this year ordered Bureau of Prisons officials to stop sending so many white-collar and nonviolent criminals to halfway houses. "The prospect of prison, more than any other sanction, is feared by white-collar criminals and has a powerful deterrent effect," Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson said in a memo announcing the change. Yet the cost of housing, feeding and caring for a prison inmate is roughly $20,000 per year, or about $40 billion nationwide using 2002 figures, according to The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit organization that promotes alternatives to prison. Construction costs are about $100,000 per cell. Even as these costs keeping climbing, the federal government is tackling a giant budget deficit and 31 states this year are cutting spending – most often across all programs – to deal with shortfalls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. "The prison population and budget figures, taken together, should be setting off alarm bells in state capitols," said Jason Zeidenberg, director of policy and research for the Justice Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on ending reliance on incarceration. Drug offenders now make up more than half of all federal prisoners. The federal penal system, which has tough sentencing policies for drug offenses, is now the nation's largest at more than 151,600 – an increase of 4.2 percent compared with 2001. Over the same period, state prison and jail populations grew just 2.4 percent. Prison alternative advocates credit moves in some states to divert drug offenders to treatment programs and other innovations for that lower growth rate. Texas, for example, recently passed a drug treatment alternative law and saw its prison population remain virtually unchanged from 2001 to 2002. Ohio, which revised its sentencing and parole guidelines in the late 1990s, had its prison and jail population rise just 0.8 percent last year compared with 1.9 percent for the Midwest as a whole. "The way to reduce prison spending is to reduce the number of people in prison and the number of prisons, like some states across the country have done," said Rose Braz, director of Critical Resistance, a California-based group opposed to prison expansion. At the same time, the Justice Department report found that 17 states reported increases of at least 5 percent year-to-year in their prison populations, with Maine's increasing by 11.5 percent and Rhode Island's rising 8.6 percent. The federal prisons and almost all state corrections systems are over their capacities, with 71,000 offenders serving their state or federal sentences in local jails. Other key points in the report: * As of last Dec. 31, there were 97,491 women in state or federal prisons, or about 6.8 percent of all inmates and one in every 1,656 women. There were over 1.3 million male inmates, or about one in 110 men. * About 10 percent of all black men between 25 and 29 were incarcerated last year, compared with 1.2 percent of white men and 2.4 percent of Hispanic men. Overall, the 586,700 black men in prison outnumbered both the 436,800 white males and 235,000 Hispanic males. Black males account for about 45 percent of all inmates serving a sentence longer than a year. * Privately operated prisons held 93,771 inmates, about 5.8 percent of state prisoners and 12.4 percent of those in federal jurisdictions. * At year's end 2002, the federal government held 8,748 people at immigration detention facilities, 2,377 at military jails and 16,206 in U.S. territorial prisons. Complete Title: Growing Prison Population is Growing Problem for Cash-Strapped States On the Net: Bureau of Justice Statistics: Source: Associated PressAuthor: Curt Anderson, Associated Press Published: Sunday, July 27, 2003  Copyright: 2003 Associated Press Related Articles & Web Sites:ACLU Drug War Clock Nation Behind Bars War at Home -- Sojourners Magazine Prison Population Tops 2 Million American Gulag in The Making 

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Comment #12 posted by FoM on July 29, 2003 at 21:52:07 PT
The International Drug War's Illusory Victories
By Ted Galen CarpenterJuly 30, 2003U.S. and Colombian officials are busy celebrating an alleged breakthrough in the war on drugs. According to a new United Nations study, the U.S.-funded aerial spraying campaign and other anti-drug programs in Colombia have reduced the amount of acreage devoted to coca plants (the raw material for cocaine) by 38 percent over the past three years. Even those drug warriors who reluctantly concede that previous campaigns to cut the supply of drugs coming out of Latin America were failures argue that "this time it is different."Perhaps. But there are ample reasons to be skeptical. For example, even as coca production declines in Colombia, it is on the rise in neighboring Peru, which had been hailed as one of the "supply side" successes in the mid- and late 1990s. Moreover, there are signs of increased coca production in several of Colombia's neighbors, such as Ecuador, Venezuela, and Brazil -- countries that up to this time have not been major factors in the drug trade.That raises the question of whether coca production overall has suffered a blow or whether the U.S.-sponsored efforts in Colombia have merely caused production to shift to other locations. It would hardly be the first time. In the early 1970s, the Nixon administration put intense pressure on the government of Turkey to eradicate the cultivation of opium poppies (the raw material for heroin). The effort seemed to be a success, as the quantity of heroin coming out of Turkey plunged. But Mexico promptly replaced Turkey as the leading supplier of heroin to the United States, and the amount of the drug coming into this country scarcely declined at all.Snipped:Complete Article:
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Comment #11 posted by john wayne on July 29, 2003 at 16:03:29 PT
prison is an abstraction 
to most people.Unseen, unfelt, prison is something that most folks think of as very remote from their own daily reality.But an article in the August '03 Harpers mag, "Sick on the Inside" By Wil S Hylton subtitled: Correctional HMO's and the Coming Prison Plague, brings the retrograde values of the mellenarial US right into your face.  Short summary: lots of untreated disease in prison. Prisoners don't generally stay in prison forever. 
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Comment #10 posted by freedom fighter on July 29, 2003 at 00:34:31 PT
Anyone seen
the "Snuff" film???? Way off the topic,,, only one word spoken about pot.. "Do'nt you forget to get me a joint!"Just curious if anybody seen the film???pazff
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Comment #9 posted by freedom fighter on July 29, 2003 at 00:13:40 PT
"WE have the best prison conditions"??Sorry if I do'nt buy this.. check the human rights org.. pazff
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Comment #8 posted by b4daylight on July 28, 2003 at 18:11:52 PT
Here is my radical thought
First seperate non violent offenders and Violent offenders.
Prison should not breed new violent crimminals. Second make prison less comfy. I know it is not right now, but lets look at how they treat crimminals else where. WE have the best prison conditions and the highest populations. Second we need to overhaul the justice system. Right now it favors the law not the people. Law should be fair, and not a gauge for crime rates. Treatment should be the new standard guage.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on July 27, 2003 at 21:32:20 PT
That Reminds Me of A Story
I watched a news documentary a few years back and it was about the Russian Economy. They didn't have much food in the stores and didn't have much money to buy things. One woman was buying Vodka instead of food. The news reporter asked why she was buying Vodka instead of food since her money was limited. She said because there always will be a resale value for the Vodka. It was a business investment on her part. People will always use a substance to alter their consciousness. From coffee for a nice caffeine buzz to chocolate! It is human nature to want to take a short break from reality. That's just my opinion. In times of war temporarily wanting to escape mentally from the situation is normal. Remember the saying, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we will die. When society begins to understand this concept they might realize the failure of prohibition and change might happen. I can only hope.
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Comment #6 posted by afterburner on July 27, 2003 at 21:09:21 PT:
The Final Solution
Mozambique: Farmers Find Marijuana The Most Lucrative Cash Crop. 25 Jul 2003 
Inter Press Service (Wire)"Perhaps the only 'advantage' to the endemic poverty of the region is that young people do not have the disposable income to buy drugs," says Pritchard. So, this is the strategy behind trickle-down, evaporate-up economics: eliminate the middle class, impoverish the under-class, so they can't buy "drugs," and if that doesn't work, put them in prison. And by all means protect the privileged uber-class and their legal "drugs" with deadly force."Most of the people of the region do not purchase marijuana, because they grow it themselves if they want it, despite the illegality," David Pritchard, president of the Council Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, told IPS.Of course, in the twisted logic of North America, anyone growing or selling "marijuana" is a drug kingpin, a death dealer, except Prairie Plant Systems and medical cannabis exemptees, and people are not too sure about them.ego transcendence follows ego destruction, it's a global destiny.
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Comment #5 posted by ben on July 27, 2003 at 19:31:29 PT
slave labour
I was just wondering how many free work hours the corporations get out of there slave workforce subsidized
by the American taxpayer.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on July 27, 2003 at 19:25:26 PT

Heads Up: Geraldo in Colombia on TV Now
I was going thru the news channels and Geraldo is talking about spraying and the drug war in Colombia.Thought I'd pass it on!
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Comment #3 posted by John Tyler on July 27, 2003 at 18:40:13 PT

With these numbers (pun intended), cannabis legalization is the only answer. 
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Comment #2 posted by Virgil on July 27, 2003 at 16:06:40 PT

Similar story at CommonDreams
The title of the article at is "Going Backwards: U.S. Prison and Jail Population Increases in 2002" and is by James Vicini. It is hard to argue that prison is the harshest separation from freedom outside of a death sentence. We have a subversion of democracy sustaining these victimless crimes with an intellectual dishonesty that should call all patriots out to fight the War of Insanity with the chief battles being against has a poll up where they ask a question concerning party loyalty with the last alternative being "Never re-elect anybody." It has about 10% of the vote. I liked the choice of words for the alphabet quality of the first letter of each word- NRA. 

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Comment #1 posted by FoM on July 27, 2003 at 16:00:33 PT

Just a Comment
Half of 2.1 million people in prison are there for drug offenses! I hope the Canadian Government sees what could happen to them if they don't stand strong and keep Cannabis legal like the courts have said!
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