Studies & Reports:
One In 99 US Adults In Prison
For the first time in the nation's history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report released in early 2008 by the Pew Center for the States. Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.
Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.
According to Susan Urahn, the Pew Center's managing director, "we aren't really getting the return in public safety from this level of incarceration."
"We tend to be a country in which incarceration is an easy response to crime," Ms. Urahn continued. "Being tough on crime is an easy position to take, particularly if you have the money. And we did have the money in the '80s and '90s."
Now, with fewer resources available to the states, the report said, "prison costs are blowing a hole in state budgets." On average, states spend almost 7 percent on their budgets on corrections.
The Pew report recommended diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and using punishments short of reincarceration for minor or technical violations of probation or parole. It also urged states to consider earlier release of some prisoners.
The full Pew Center, report, One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008, can be found at: www.pewcenteronthestates.org/report_detail.aspx?id=35904.
New Studies Emphasize Racism In Drug War
The Sentencing Project's new study, Disparity by Geography: The War on Drugs in America's Cities, is the first city-level analysis of drug arrests, examining data from 43 of the nation's largest cities between 1980-2003. The study found that since 1980, the rate of drug arrests in American cities for African Americans increased by 225%, compared to 70% among whites. Black arrest rates grew by more than 500% in 11 cities during this period and in nearly half of the cities, the odds of arrest for a drug offense among African Americans relative to whites more than doubled.
Among The Sentencing Project report's key findings:
* Six cities experienced more than a 500% rise in overall drug arrests between 1980 and 2003: Tucson (887%), Buffalo (809%), Kansas City (736%), Toledo (701%), Newark (663%), and Sacramento (597%).
* Extreme city variations in drug arrests point to local enforcement decisions as prime contributor to racial disparity.
* African American drug arrests increased 3.4 times the rate of whites despite similar rates of drug use.
The report was released in conjunction with Human Rights Watch's Targeting Blacks: Drug Law Enforcement and Race in the United States, which documents that in 34 states the persistent racial disparities among drug offenders sent to prison. Both organizations urge public officials to restore fairness, racial justice and credibility to drug control efforts.
Both reports follow in the wake of the March 2008 recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Committee urged that U.S. criminal justice policies and practices address the unwarranted racial disparities that have been documented at all levels of the system.
For full reports, see www.sentencingproject.org/NewsDetails.aspx?NewsID=606 and http://hrw.org/reports/2008/us0508/.
Despite Drug War, US Leads World In Drug Use and Abuse
After 40 years of the modern drug war, world-record incarceration rates, and over $1 TRILLION spent, the United States continues to lead the world in drug consumption and abuse, according to data recently released from the World Health Organization (WHO). Countries with looser drug laws have lower rates of abuse, according to the report:
"The United States, which has been driving much of the world's drug research and drug policy agenda, stands out with higher levels of use of alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies
"The Netherlands, with a less criminally punitive approach to cannabis use than the U.S., has experienced much lower levels of use, particularly among younger adults."
The study is available at: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0050141
Abuse And Death At Youth 'Boot Camps'
The first federal look at "boot camps," wilderness programs, and similar programs aimed at troubled youth, including those sent away because of drug use, has found widespread allegations of abuse at such facilities. The Government Accountability Office study, released December 2007, examined 1,619 allegations of abuse from 2005 alone.
"GAO could not identify a more concrete number of allegations because it could not locate a single Web site, federal agency, or other entity that collects comprehensive nationwide data," the report noted.
The GAO also examined 10 cases between 1990 and 2004 where teens died at those facilities. Three of the victims were placed in the facilities by their parents because of their drug use.
Each year thousands of teenagers are referred for drug treatment, even for being caught once smoking marijuana. The drug czar uses teen drug treatment figures to argue that marijuana is a serious problem, but doesn't mention that most teens "seeking" treatment for marijuana are ordered there by courts or schools. Nor does he mention that when it comes to treatment facilities like those examined by the GAO, the cure can be infinitely worse than the disease.
The full GAO Report, Residential Treatment Programs: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth, is available from the GAO website at www.gao.gov/docsearch/abstract.php?rptno=GAO-08-146T.
Source: Drug War Chronicle (US)
Sentences Reduced For 3,000 Cocaine Prisoners
Some 3,000 inmates convicted on crack cocaine charges have had their prison sentences reduced since the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) voted to ease the way courts meted out penalties for drug crimes to address disparities in the treatment of crack-related crimes compared with those involving powdered cocaine.
Four out of five crack cocaine defendants are black, and most powder cocaine convictions involve whites.
Since March 3, when new federal sentencing guidelines went into effect, 3,647 crack cocaine offenders had applied for early release.
A USSC study said that federal judges nationwide had agreed to reduce prison sentences for 3,075 inmates. About 1,600 federal inmates were eligible for immediate release, but the study said it was not clear how many offenders had been actually been freed.
Black inmates accounted for 84 percent of those given less prison time, bolstering the commission's view that the former guidelines had created a racial disparity because of the way cocaine offenders were sentenced.
The new sentencing guidelines, which took in March, allowed some 20,000 inmates convicted on crack cocaine charges to seek retroactive reductions in their prison time.
The report showed that 30 percent of crack offenders whose sentences were reduced were minor or first-time criminals, and 9 percent of those whose sentences were shortened were violent or repeat offenders.
The full report, Data on Retroactive Application of the Crack Cocaine Amendment, is available from the United States Sentencing Commission at www.ussc.gov/USSC_Crack_Cocaine_Retroactivity_Data_Report_21_April_08.pdf.
Source: New York Times, 4/25/08