More Inmates today in US Prisons than in Stalin’s Gulag
March 25, 2012
“Is this hyperbole? Here are the facts. The U.S. has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. That’s not just many more than in most other developed countries but seven to 10 times as many. Japan has 63 per 100,000, Germany has 90, France has 96, South Korea has 97, and –Britain – with a rate among the highest – has 153….
“This wide gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world is relatively recent. In 1980 the U.S.’s prison population was about 150 per 100,000 adults. It has more than quadrupled since then. So something has happened in the past 30 years to push millions of Americans into prison.
“That something, of course, is the war on drugs. Drug convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996, an almost tenfold increase. More than half of America’s federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions. In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges. And 4 of 5 of those arrests were simply for possession….”
Yet, even in California, it’s hard to pass even the partial legalization of marijuana during a time of massive budget deficits. And new initiatives are failing this year.
People would rather go bankrupt than stop putting pot pushers in prison.
Meanwhile, if you want to, you can go to your local grocery or liquor store, plop down $5 for a fifth of Ol’ Skull Popper vodka, and really get wiped out.
I’m not advocating the use of marijuana, any more than I am saying people should get blotto on vodka. I’ve never sued illegal drugs myself.
But government bankruptcy is serious. It costs around $50,000 a year to keep a petty dope dealer in the klink. Don’t we have better uses of that money? (My favorite: cut taxes.)
Maybe the ongoing national and state financial disasters, which are only going to get worse, finally will push at least partial legalization of drugs.