US is No. 1 at putting people behind bars
It costs between $28,000 and $60,000 to house an inmate. With federal prisons 40% overcrowded, can we afford to cut low-level drug offenders loose?
Attorney General Eric Holder announced the department's plan on Monday, noting that the U.S. accounts for just 5% of the world's population but incarcerates almost a quarter of the world's prisoners. He added that U.S. federal prisons are nearly 40% above capacity and that almost half of the inmates are serving time for drug-related crimes.
The cost of housing those prisoners isn't cheap, either. According to the federal Prisons Bureau, the average cost of incarceration for federal inmates in 2011 was nearly $29,000. A report by the non-partisan Vera Institute of Justice, "The Price of Prisons," states that the average cost of incarcerating one inmate in lower-tier prisons in 2010 was $31,307 per year. "In states like Connecticut, Washington state, New York, it's anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000," he said.
That $60,000 a year is a teacher, firefighter or police officer's salary that isn't paid. All told, the Vera Institute estimates that incarcerating criminals costs taxpayers $63.4 billion a year.
That's still a deal compared to the $500 million spent annually by the Pentagon on the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, which works out to $2.7 million per prisoner for all 166 prisoners. By comparison, America's most secure prison, the so-called Supermax in Florence, Colo., costs about $78,000 per year to operate on a per-prisoner basis.
But that's not the prison population being targeted here. The United States leads the world in the percentage of its population behind bars, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies in London, largely because of mandatory minimum sentences and related laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s at a time of rising crime and drug violence.
According to statistics kept by the International Centre, 716 of every 100,000 Americans are in prison or in jail awaiting trial. That compares to 479 in Russia, 284 in Iran, 274 in Brazil, 209 in Mexico, 149 in England and Wales, 121 in China, 114 in Canada, 102 in France and 80 in Germany.
There are nearly 2.4 million Americans behind bars, even though over the last 20 years the crime rate has actually dropped by more than 40%. That's led to overcrowding so acute in some areas that, in California, the U.S. Supreme Court called it "cruel and unusual punishment" and last May ordered the state to cut its prison population by more than 30,000.
On a grand scale, what Holder is proposing is a reconsideration of the "war on drugs" and its effect on the U.S. justice system. At its finest point, it's a bloated line item that seem ripe for a trim.
"War on Drugs"? It makes kids criminals and spends way to much on prisons, ignoring rehabilitation and lifelong consequences. We must support revising the ineffective sentencing mandated in the '80's and 90's.
The young, mostly men of color, who are incarcerated for minor drug offences makes it nearly impossible to promote families and jobs in that population, perpetuating poverty and hopelessness that leads a lot of kids to drugs. Kind of a vicious circle.
Should be putting more money and harsher penalties on the dealers and others who profit from drugs. Private for profit prisons are so wrong. Let's get rid of the need for them. .
We have the lawyers and over-zealous prosecuting attorneys to thank for this. With the "throw every possible charge at the offender and see what sticks" mentality, we have landed countless people in jail - most that are either mentally ill, or committed a non-violent crime (posession with intent to distribute marijuana for example). Let's stop this insanity and put our (and I mean the taxpayer's) money to something that can benefit us as a whole. I am sure each of you can think of better things to do with the money...
Our tyrannical ruler will put anyone in jail that he see fit.
The court system is just a kangaroo court with verdicts established well before the court date
The war on drugs is over, drugs won. A certain percent of the population are going to be drug addicts and no law will stop it. So it is time to get real and treat drug addiction for what it is, an addiction pure and simple. Time to register drug addicts and set up means that drugs can be obtained legal with a prescription, taxed and regulated so a drug addict could get his fix at Walgreens for example. The war on drug money could then be spent on clinics to help drug addicts kick the habit. Just locking people up is not the answer, You can't keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
Most of the problem lies with gutless politicians that instead of facing the situation as it really is, instead passes laws that just keeps putting more people in prison and sweeps the problem under the rug. This backward thinking has finally caught up to the real problem in that there is no way the tax payer can afford to keep throwing junkies and drug dealers in prison. The time is coming soon that the public will demand a change and a new way of dealing with drug addiction. The bottom line is there is no way the already over burdened tax payer can afford to maintain the ever growing prison population with the way of dealing with drug addiction as it is now.
I doubt we see any significant change and surely not an end to the drug war in America. Reason- MONEY!!! Cities, counties, police department, and consulting group get federal grants to fight drugs. Gun and equipment manufacturers make a killing on charging tax funded entities for their products. The budget for FBI, DEA, ICE, ABC and just about every other alphabetic trio get money for the war on drugs. and the prison guards belong to one of the most powerful (almost mob like) unions on the planet. I would love to think the will of the PEOPLE and COMMON SENSE would prevail, but it seems unlikely here in THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY.
In my town of West Sacramento, CA the police and city got together to create UNCONSTITUTIONAL LAWS and get federal funds for a gang no one ever heard of and does not exist. At least I never heard of them in my 40 years (lived here since age 7)here as have none of my friends or any of the 100+ relatives that live here!!!
But yea I blame the Chinese lol ;) for creating guns way back when they fighting the Mongols, then we wouldn't have so many deaths caused by gun violence. Yes I completely understand protection from idiots but these same idiots are running around killing innocent people over simple **** like Jordan sneakers!
The entire world needs to hold a Pot Day so everyone can smoke ONE joint, listen to music then all (well most, cuz marijuana effects EVERYONE differently) of us would be happy human beings! =D
writer writes over past 20 years crime has dropped by 40%, so guess we have less criminals in jail so the crime rate will go down by 60 %, what a stupid statement. About as stupid as chasing people down
for bad habits, let em take drugs!
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