Drug Crimes Are Fueling American prisons

Non violent drug users that hurt nobody but themselves should not be in prison.  Drug abusers need the same help that someone with alcohol abuse would need.  These 5-10 year prison sentences for non-violent offenders has to stop.


There is now widespread, bipartisan agreement that is a huge problem in the United States. The rates and levels of are destroying families and communities, and widening opportunity gaps—especially in from

There is no disputing that incarceration for property and violent crimes is of huge importance to America’s prison population, but the standard analysis—including Alexander’s critics—fails to distinguish between the stock and flow of drug -related incarceration. In fact, there are two ways of looking at the prison population as it relates to drug crimes:

  1. How many people experience incarceration as a result of a crime over a certain time period?
  2. What proportion of the prison population at a particular moment in time was imprisoned for a drug-related crime?

The answers will differ because the length of sentences varies by the kind of crime committed. As of 2009, the median incarceration time at state facilities for drug offenses was 14 months, exactly half the time for violent crimes. Those convicted of murder served terms of roughly 10 times greater length.

Drug crimes are the main driver of imprisonment

The picture is clear: Drug crimes have been the predominant reason for new admissions into state and federal prisons in recent decades. In every year from 1993 to 2009, more people were admitted for drug crimes than violent crimes. In the 2000s, the flow of incarceration for drug crimes exceeded admissions for property crimes each year. Nearly one-third of total prison admissions over this period were for drug crimes:


Drug offenders in American prisons: The critical distinction between stock and flow | Brookings Institution