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Nearly half of those in federal prisons have drug-based sentences

The “War on Drugs” has been going on for decades, and it has changed the prison population significantly. It’s been reported that almost half of the people in federal prisons are there due to drug charges. The official total, according to the statistics kept by the Department of Justice, is 48 percent.

To contrast this with other federal crimes, about eight percent of the population had been arrested for violent crimes, such as assault, manslaughter or murder. Just 11 percent had been arrested for immigration-related incidents. Though immigration arrests have been on the rise faster than almost all other types of crimes, the numbers still lag far behind drug arrests.

Some people may be tempted to counter these numbers by pointing out that prison populations have gone down in recent years by about 0.9 percent. Doesn’t that mean fewer arrests needed to be made?

While this figure isn’t incorrect, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The number of people in federal prison, where these drug offenders are often held, went up. The only reason the total declined is that state prison numbers fell, and everything was averaged together to get the cumulative drop.

These state-level prisons have actually been proactive in some areas, seeking to decriminalize the more minor drug-related crimes, like possession of a small amount of a contraband substance. In some cases, this means using drug courts and offering treatment options for those who are addicted, rather than only using jail time.

The federal numbers, though, show that the federal government is not trending in the same direction. When facing drug charges, be sure you know what level the charges are at and what options you may have in Tennessee.

Source: Think Progress, “Almost Half Of Federal Prisoners Held For Drug Crimes,” accessed Feb. 19, 2016

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