We’ve just about lost a generation of young people. We’re building new prison beds at the rate of about 1000 a week and we’re still overcrowded… We’ve spent $100 billion on the war on drugs and we’re losing it.— US District Judge Thomas Wiseman
The New York Times reported today some frightening new prison numbers from a Department of Justice study.
- “The nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999” (despite a drop in violent crime and state budget deficits resulting in early prisoner releases).
- “At the end of 2002, there were 2,166,260 Americans in local jails, state and federal prisons and juvenile detention facilities.”
- “10.4 percent of black men ages 25 to 29, or 442,300 people, were in prison last year”
- 20% of inmates in state prisons were doing time for drug crimes
- “In the federal prison system, which with 163,528 inmates is now larger than any state system, 48 percent of the growth in the number of prisoners from 1995 to 2001 was accounted for by drug crimes and only 9 percent by violent crimes.” (my emphasis)
Of course, the federal government has shown that what it really likes to do is send armed agents to take down old folks in wheelchairs or glassblowers. And the FBI would rather go after drug seizures than investigate terrorists.
For more information about the devastation of our destructive incarceration, visit the November Coalition (In particular, read about the real faces behind the prisoners in their Stories from behind the WALL, and “Children of War.”