Crime in America.Net
For years, political and correctional systems throughout the country have been criticized for putting too many drug offenders in prison. The thought was that drug offenders had medical problems best addressed through treatment, not prison.
Proponents argued that prison beds should be reserved for violent offenders.
The counter argument was that many if not most drug offenders had long histories of bothering communities and often engaged in a variety of other crimes including acts of violence. People asserting this point of view state that offenders not engaged in additional acts of criminality do not go to prison for drug-related activities.
Additionally, they state that the overwhelming number of drug offenders were charged with more serious crimes but were plea-bargained down to possession or possession with intent to distribute.
Proponents of this view felt strongly that if you had a substantial criminal history, you should be in prison for plea-bargained drug-related charges.
Sentences based on drug-related convictions at one time drove the criminal justice system. No more. Proponents of the “save prison beds for violent offenders” point of view have won the day.
Violent Offenders Drive Prison Growth
Violent offenders accounted for sixty percent of state prison population growth from 2000 to 2008. In 2008, the number of offenders sentenced to state prison for violent offenses reached 715,400, up from 95,400 violent offenders in 2000.
Note that this was during a period of substantially reduced violent crime throughout the country. See http://crimeinamerica.net/crime-rates-united-states/.
This increase accounted for sixty percent of prison growth during this period.
Drug offenders declined. There were 12,400 fewer drug offenders in state prison in 2008 than in 2000.