"Who Is Responsible For America's Swollen Prison Population?"
The author's attempt to assign blame to one political party is a pretty lame bit of thinking, particularly since he virtually ignores the so-called war on drugs.
Crime rates for non drug offenses have been falling in virtually every category for decades.
I read stuff like this and if I didn't know better I would think the only people who ever go to prison are black, petty drug offenders. having been both a prosecutor and a defense lawyer and still having several close friends who do criminal defense, I know better. First, a lot of people who are in prison for drug offenses are there for other things to and would be in prison even if we had never had prohibition. Drug offenses are very easy to prove, either you have to stuff of you don't, so prosecutors often drop other more difficult to prove charges like assault in exchange for a guilty plea on the drug offenses. When that happens the anti-prohibitionists point to another drug offender filling a prison cell at the expense of a more violent offender, but that is not entirely true.
The other thing to remember is who gets arrested for drugs. Lots of middle class and upper middle class people who are not normally criminals use drugs. But me sitting here fat dumb and happy in my suburban home and very unlikely to get caught for use because I am an otherwise law abiding person and have very few if any interactions with the cops. But if I were a criminal and beat the hell out of my wife on occasion and robbed people and wrote bad checks or was already on probation for this or that crime, I am going to interact with the cops a hell of a lot more and am going to be much more likely to get caught for drug use. Ending prohibition would not keep me out of jail for long. It would just mean that I would be there for something else.
We have a large prison population because we have a large criminal population. By that I don't mean people who break stupid laws like drug laws, but people who are theives and violent and do things that ought to put them into prison. I would encourage anyone here to go down and watch a day of state criminal court, you won't find a lot of innocent people there. You will find a lot of pretty stupid and messed up and occasionally dangerous people there.
One last note on the prison population. Has anyone thought of the effect of endless illegal immigration on this? Not that the immigrants commit crimes but in that it limits the options of those who do end up in jail. Suppose you are someone who deals drugs or robs someone or makes a mistake that lands you in prison. When you get out you really do want to go straight and live a productive life. Now if you are say a high school drop out with a prison record you won't be landing any six figure jobs. You are going to have to start at the bottom and do something like move furniture or mow lawns until you have a work history and can move up. If you come to me to ask for such a job, why on earth would I hire you, someone who has a prison record, when I can hire any number of salt of the earth Mexican peasants who are lining up outside my door and will work for whatever I pay them and if I don't like them I can fire them at will with no worries of lawsuits or anything else? I wouldn't. Illegal immigration totally screws those at the bottom of our labor force and makes it extremely difficult for people who have been in prison to go straight.
Do governors control local DA's? Are they responsible for the effect of laws passed before they took office?
Crime rates for non drug offenses have been falling in virtually every category for decades.
But if I were a criminal and beat the hell out of my wife on occasion and robbed people and wrote bad checks or was already on probation for this or that crime, I am going to interact with the cops a hell of a lot more and am going to be much more likely to get caught for drug use.
Last time I checked, there is a course of action required prior to being incarcerated. Namely, you must first commit a crime.
EKGlen, I think he is not assigning blame to one party and not ignoring the so-called war on drugs.
Conservatives "own" the crime issue because there is a perception that liberals care less about the victims and more about the criminals. Someone who is liberal will have to do "something" to establish his or her bona fides on crime--whether it be presiding over an execution or proposing mandatory imprisonment laws.
My sense is that Stuntz doesn't mention drugs specifically because the whole post is about drugs; I've tended to understand that that's the primary source of the major expansion in prison rates, and that's what he's discussing. (Am I wrong on that?)
Finally, no need to resort to sarcasm with the "Aww, c'mon Orin" line. I am serious and you should be, too. If you'd like to post here, please keep it civil.
EKGlen, does your entire world revolve around the Democratic-Republican axis?
The increase in criminalizing everything.
Moreover, a reminder that our justice system is overwhelmed and stuck in nuetral.
Secondly, a lot of robberies etc committed by addicts are committed to get the money to buy drugs. This incentive would disappear if drugs were legal and the cost went down (as they would by basic economics).
Even if the price went down you are still going to have the same addicts committing robberies. They don't have any source of income so even if a rock cost a dollar they are going to need to steal to get money.
"Sig357 says generally that those who are in prison for drug offenses could have been charged with other crimes, but weren't"
"How does this undercut the argument that our jails are too full of drug offenders?"
"Cops act differently in poor neighborhoods than they do in middle-class ones, for the exact reasons on display here...the assumption that poor=criminal."
"The reason the State may find the assault more difficult to prove is that the person is innocent. Jailing them on a drug charge doesn't really change that."
Stuntz's view is that the public wants strong law enforcement; because the GOP has a reputation of being pro law enforcement, they can satisfy this public demand without actually doing anything. The real problem is public demand and how that demand is translated into policy. not the workings of any one party.
The political right plainly contributed, and contributed a lot, to the generation-long run-up in our prison population. But the political left probably contributed even more.
And all I'm suggesting is that you consider his argument on its own merits, rather than leaping to a defence of the "political left". It's tedious when people view everything in terms of whether it helps or hurts their own political party. Believe it or not, some things actually ARE the fault of the political left.
If true, and I'm not saying it is, then it suggests that many drug offenders are not in jail merely for drug offences. So it seems to me that it undercuts it.
2. About 90% of the population does not do crime and for about half of those that do the offenses are minor and are unlikely to result in jail detention or a prison sentence.
If the State cannot take them to trial and prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, they shouldn't be in jail on those crimes...and (IMHO) no one should be in jail for drug crimes (at the very least not for possession). So again, why should the presence of other crimes, that the State doesn't believe they can prove at trial change that calculus in the slightest?
PWID is a joke. In many states, simple possession above a certain threshold is automatic PWID, so, while you can call it whatever you want, it's still simply possession unless the prosecution has the burden to show an actual intent to distribute.
I'm fairly certain that the guy with bales of marijuana had an intent to distribute. But bales weigh (at a minimum) 30 to 40 pounds.
At least in my state, marijuana is in a special class. While it is, in fact, 4 grams or more to traffic for most schedule 1 controlled substances, marijuana is specifically exempted--you need at least 100 pounds, which Hattio1 acknowledged is a much larger quantity than personal use.
(d) REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION OF INTENT TO DELIVER.
(1) Possession by any person of a quantity of any controlled substance including the mixture or substance listed in subdivision (d)(3) of this section in excess of the quantity limit set out in subdivision (d)(3) of this section creates a rebuttable presumption that the person possesses the controlled substance with intent to deliver.
(2) The presumption may be overcome by the submission of evidence sufficient to create a reasonable doubt that the person charged possessed the controlled substance with intent to deliver.
(3)(A) List of controlled substances and quantities:
(i) Cocaine -- one gram (1 g);
(ii) Codeine -- three hundred milligrams (300 mg);
(iii) Hashish -- six grams (6 g);
(iv) Heroin -- one hundred milligrams (100 mg);
(v) Hydromorphine Hydrochloride -- sixteen milligrams (16 mg);
(vi) Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) -- one hundred micrograms (100 μg);
(vii) Marijuana -- one ounce (1 oz.);
(viii) Methadone -- one hundred milligrams (100 mg);
(ix) Methamphetamine -- two hundred milligrams (200 mg);
(x) Morphine -- three hundred milligrams (300 mg);
(xi) Opium -- three grams (3 g); and
(xii) Pethidine -- three hundred milligrams (300 mg).
POSSESSING WITH INTENT TO MANUFACTURE OR DELIVER. Except as authorized by subchapters 1-6 of this chapter, it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, deliver, or possess with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance. Any person who violates this subsection with respect to:
(1) SCHEDULE I OR II NARCOTIC DRUG OR METHAMPHETAMINE.
(A)(i) A controlled substance classified in Schedule I or Schedule II that is a narcotic drug or methamphetamine, and by aggregate weight, including an adulterant or diluent, is less than twenty-eight grams (28 g), is guilty of a felony and shall be imprisoned for not less than ten (10) years nor more than forty (40) years, or life, and shall be fined an amount not exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000).
Also, an earlier commentator noted that people spend a long time awaiting jail even if they are innocent. For about 75% of the people I see in court, that would be no problem. Too many people are frequent fliers, and if we locked them up for a year at a time - society would not loose. Too many folks like this are a drain on society, a waste, and probably could benefit from a year of sobriety anyways.