I’d like to see how that “drug offenses” breaks down. Dealers are one thing, basically because there is usually other crime attached to it. But I wonder how many are due to possession independent of other crimes.
You’d want to know a lot more about how the stats were compiled before drawing any conclusions. The numbers look like they sum to one, which means that someone who broke into a house and was tracked down and turned out to be an illegal immigrant who a gram of dope, an unlicenced firearm and an outstanding warrant for tearing tags off mattresses is somehow classified as being in only one category. If it’s done on sentences, the fact that drug penalties are relatively harsh would make a big difference to the numbers.
This is interesting data, but one should be aware that the distribution of the roughly 175,000 convicts in Federal prisons doesn’t necessarily tell us much about the rest of the roughly 2 million persons incarcerated in the U.S. Most everyday crimes aren’t Federal crimes, after all.
My thinking is that 94,000 is an awful lot of drug kingpins and high-level dealers even for as large a country as the U.S., so I’d assume until shown otherwise that most of these guys are low-level dealers and users.
At the lower levels, the line between ‘dealer’ and ‘user’ is a blurry one. If four of us are sitting around watching the football game, and we decide to order a pizza, I’m not a pizza dealer even if I’m the one who places the order, collects the other guys’ money, pays and tips the delivery guy, and gives everyone their share of the pizza. But if the same transaction involved marijuana rather than pizza, the law would regard me as a drug dealer.
So even if every last one of those 94,000 is technically a ‘dealer,’ I’m not buying the notion that most of these guys are predators who had to be gotten off the streets, absent better evidence than a Federal drug conviction for dealing. A decent minority of them surely are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them are.
There are some federal offenses for simple possession, but most of them tend to be based on where you are rather than what you’re doing, e.g. on Indian land on federal property. Most federal drug offenders are in for trafficking, and the Feds usually are involved in prosecuting people moving larger amounts than you see in state courts, guys who tend to deal more in kilos than grams. They don’t mess around with the low level guys much. Seeing guys prosecuted for having 10 kilos of cocaine isn’t completely unusual, and occassionally you’ll see a huge bust of smugglers with a very literal boat load, like tons. Not tons like “lots,” tons like “tons.” Heavy stuff, no pun intended.
Wait, there are only 191,867 people in prison in the U.S.? (plus 18,706 in privately-managed secure facilities / 11,022 in other contract facilities) Or is this just federal prison, with more in state prison?
The total prison population for the country is 2,186,230 (as of June 2005). This figure includes all people serving sentences in federal, state, or local prisons. But it doesn’t include people in jail awaiting trials or sentencing; nor does it include youthful offenders or criminally insane person held in confinement; nor people in military prisons.