All the talk about budget cuts has got me wondering about this. At the federal level, how much taxpayer money goes to arresting, trying, and locking up people who have only committed the crime of drug possession? What percentage of the Department of Justice’s budget goes to this?
I am asking about numbers for simple drug possession for personal use, not interested in DUI, drug dealing, or manufacturing.
According to this site the federal government spent $15 billion on the drug war in 2010. They have a running counter which a quick back of the napkin calculation suggests they will spend about $16 billion this year.
The states (combined) spend more than the feds.
EDIT: That is for all drug crimes. I see I missed the OP wants non-violent crimes.
Is simple possession for personal use a federal crime? Would the feds be spending any money on this, or would it mostly or all be state money?
I think the feds have busted some “legal” marijuana dispensaries and the like.
I doubt it amounts to much cost in the grand scheme but the feds do go after non-violent drug offenders on occasion.
Boffking specifies that he’s only asking about simple possession for personal use, so presumably any federal money spend on combatting dealing/distribution/supply wouldn’t be relevant to his question.
Admittedly, the thread header mentions all non-violent drug offences, but his question is more specific than that.
A discussion of the federal offense of simple possession of drugs can be found here (pdf). It’s a misdemeanor unless you have a prior drug conviction, in which case it can be a felony.
There were 2,313 cases of simple possession in the federal system in 2013 (the last year for which that report has data). 94% of those involved marijuana, and 87% of the marijuana cases were at or near the border in Arizona. These numbers were up from 2008, when there were 447 cases of simple possession in the federal system, 54% of which were marijuana.
Basically, unless you’re carrying marijuana near the Mexican border in Arizona, your chances of getting popped for the federal crime of simple possession are near zero.
I think those are mostly plea deals for low-level traffickers too. Someone who is dumb enough to get caught at the border with their personal stash of pot gets handed off to the local cops or given a civil fine.
What percentage of people in state prisons are there for drug possession?
Also, I don’t count DUI as non-violent because it has a massive risk to innocent bystanders.
I was listening to a podcast about legalizing marijuana and the pro people brought up this cite from 538 that people were in jail mainly because of simple drug offenses to counter the point that the anti-weed people were stating that there would be this huge push to free people already incarcerated. Later, both sides agreed, somewhat, that the idea of non-violent drug offenders was a popular whipping boy for both sides to make it look like they are doing something and boost public image (it really made me re-think any reports of bipartisan support). I’m not sure this is exactly what you’re looking for, but this should be a good start.
Also, when I first started interning in law school, I thought I was going to do criminal law. A lot of serious drug offenses (as already noted up thread) get plead down. I don’t know the Arizona penal system at all, but where I clerked in DC, any of the county prisons was much more preferred than big house fed institution.