Why US Prisons Are So Overcrowded

Tyler Durden's picture

On the day that California's Governor Jerry Brown asks federal judges to lift an order to release prisoners to reduce overcrowding, this brief clip seemed extremely appropriate when considering just why it is that the US prison population is so high (as we noted most recently here). Professor Daniel D'Amico provides some insightful color, noting that fully 24 percent of inmates in U.S. prisons are non-violent drug offenders. The drug war has been adding to a growing U.S. prison population for the past 40 years. Today, the United States holds more human beings in prisons than any other country, both as a percentage of the population and in counting total numbers. The war on drugs has led to significant increases in the U.S. prison population and he argues that perhaps this is an ineffective way to address drug use in America. An interesting dilemma on the day when another 'freedom', that of gun ownership, is up for potential prohibition.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Yen Cross's picture

 For Profit, comes to mind. Escape from the fed./Alcatraz---<> home ownership?

FEDbuster's picture

Regarding gun prohibition, molon labe. Out of my cold dead hands.

HurricaneSeason's picture

I lost mine in a boating accident, we were going target shooting after fishing and my duffle bag sunk.

FEDbuster's picture

Let me guess, the silver and gold bullion coins you owned were in the bag, too.

Reminder to self, buy some scuba equipment this year.

HurricaneSeason's picture

Yeah, that's why the bag sunk so fast.

GubbermintWorker's picture

Let me know if you find out his address :-)

ZeroAvatar's picture

"From my warm, still-twitching, trigger finger."

midtowng's picture

No one is looking to prohibit guns. At least no one in Washington.

So calmete people. What they are looking to do is put in place laws that will make it harder for criminals and crazy people to get guns.

If you oppose that then you are harming your own cause.

HardAssets's picture

Maybe you should look at this video. If time is short please pay attention to the part after about 11 min 30 sec into it, (that is, the last 3 minutes  or so of the video):



Sorry, I mistakenly down arrowed you and that was not my intent. I moved my finger across the mouse pad and it registered that. I don't know how to take it off. My apologies.  I do agree with your point that calmness is required. Regards, - - -

Yen Cross's picture

 Droned? Fixed it for you.

john39's picture

the glorious leader admitted to doing coke and smoking enough weed to float a zeppelin....  but his fascist administration continues to prosecute and lock up medical marijuana users.   it is the worst type of farce...  

Yen Cross's picture

 I don't recall ever disagreeing with you? I like some nice purple on occasion. OOPS I'm a gun owner.

caconhma's picture

Speaking about guns prohibition, remember the 55 miles/hour spead limit ?

Taint Boil's picture



Making it illegal to possess / ingest a plant that occurs naturally on the planet is ridiculous.

HardAssets's picture

Presription 'murder and suicide drugs' are o.k. for our kids, howeever:


If time is short please watch after about 11 min 30 sec into the video, - that is about the last 3 minutes or so.

Regards, - - 


PS - any computer saavy people out there who can record this video before YouTube decides to take it down ?

I hear videos can go viral even after theyve been taken off YouTube.  Thanks

Silver Bug's picture

Because the prison system has become incredibly profitable. It is the only way US manufacturers can compete with Chinese goods.



WhyDoesItHurtWhen iPee's picture

Also keeps those pesky people off of the unemployment stats.

Umh's picture

I hadn't thought of that angle. I thought they were just visiting friends. On a more serious not how many inmates are really employable?

monad's picture

Considering how fubar the laws are there are alot of decent cons, far more decent than most suits.

But prison permanently removes that flimsy veneer of civility that sheople think is real. People who have done time have different priorities than sheople, they really get it. Crime pays better than wage slaving and once you've tasted real freedom, and real bondage, you're no good as a serf. So they aren't suitable for jobs where they are routinely taken advantage of, because they know a lot of great ways to get even and they really enjoy fucking up the parasitic classes, just as most zhers wish they had the balls to do. They just won't schlep for pennies, and they make the straights nervous. Steal your face right off your head.

AlaricBalth's picture

Very well said. And
And that is one of the reasons why federal probation offices have a zero tolerance rule. One slip up and it is back to an FCI.

Western's picture

Don't forget they also manage the entire gang culture in the system. Easier to control thousands of inmates when they are enemies to each other.

monad's picture

I knew a guy who fucked his PO. He had easy parole. Affirmative Action is so much easier than merit; I didn't think he was that good looking.

monad's picture

Aren't we lucky. We can actually choose not to vote for the crooks. Successful cons just go straight to buying their representatives and look how much better that works than voting.

Rainman's picture

CA Dept of Corrections employees are some of the highest paid gubmint employees in Commiefornia. If you really want to clean up, become the jail shrink or a jawbreaker dentist.


Vlad Tepid's picture

Most medical professionals are allowed to work on an oncall basis for a full salary...while maintaining a private practice.  I know several doctors in "the system."  All of them make more than $175,000 in their state job...then there's their outside practices.  It gets even better when they "retire" with a pension and then come back as retired annuitants.  When it rains it pours!  

americanspirit's picture

So when is it going to occur to some very bright sociopathic politician to sell the US prison system to the Chinese? They certainly know how to run a prison system, and how to make a profit doing so. CCA has nothing on PRC.

SamAdams's picture

The Carlyle group and friends make money with the cocaine import agency, and then again when the suckers are sent to private prisons. The war on drugs is very profitable. With prisons packed to capacity, more will need to be built as disillusioned turn to drugs. Win-win!

monad's picture

Study the British opium wars. Follow the money, and the American cocaine wars fall into place. Accounting is the best record of what really happened.

SamAdams's picture

Whatreallyhappened.com is a great daily visit for a record of what really happened. Mike also has a radio show for those who would rather listen to the news.

Shizzmoney's picture

People get arrested for the health care......they have a better PPO than I do!

ball-and-chain's picture

Let's legalize drugs.

I'm tired of looking at beheaded Mexicans.

It would solve a lot of problems.


flattrader's picture

Yes, let's.

And when formally illegal recreational drugs become legal and employers begin mandatory drug testing of all employees, there will be a massive restructuring of the workforce.

Employment in most states is "at will" and there will be (and currently is) virtually nothing you can do to save your job if you test "positive" for a drug your employer doesn't like (including nicotine) unless you have a perscription.


This will be very interesting.  Very few consider that the "law of unintended consequences" will be massive and the "blow-back" from legalizing drugs will produce "dislocations" that went unconsidered.


Federal Minimum Mandatories. I practice criminal defense. A guy gets busted for having a couple pounds of weed in state court, gets probation. Then he moves a few bricks of coke, more than 5kg. Literally no other criminal involvement. Result? Mandatory 20 year sentence. Federal drug minimum mandatories are hilariously awful, and judges have very little room to move even if they wanted to, and most just say "Welp Congress ordered it so I guess its what the public wants"


buzzsaw99's picture

big pharma doesn't want any competition

DaveyJones's picture

Big Pharma and the CIA heroin / afghanistan money laundering

HurricaneSeason's picture

They should just put ankle bracelets on all of them and they'd find all the crack houses the first week.  Save lots of prison money and the police could sell the coke to balance their budgets.  That would probably escalate into anyone ever having smoked a joint wearing an ankle bracelet or anybody who ever got a dwi and on and on. Might be better to just keep the guns and let all the crazy crackheads out and shoot them one by one as they do breaking and enterings.

The Gooch's picture

A lot of police ALREADY sell the coke and then some.

Start at the very, very top.

A Lunatic's picture

Nullification of bullshit Federal "Laws" by responsible Judges as well as fully informed Jurors would go a long way in reducing the number of incarcerations. If the courts can't handle the pressure of treating cases based on their INDIVIDUAL circumstances then maybe officer Tom should stop making arrests for every petty fucking thing under the sun.

AlaricBalth's picture

Would you agree that Conspiracy convictions are another tool for the DOJ to use in elevating their prosecution rates? I know a guy from Miami who is currently incarcerated at FPC Pensacola who never actually committed an act, yet what he did do was sit down at a friends table in South Beach while a conversation was being held concerning the importation of cocaine.

General intent is such an ambiguous term that proof of an overt act is not required to garner a conviction.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Aren't juries suppose to get involved in this process at some point in time? What happened to a jury of your peers?

AlaricBalth's picture

Juries? Less than 10% of federal criminal cases go to trial.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Indeed...but why? Is it the result of the bargaining/indimidation process? Just how it works? Uninformed citizens? All of the above?

AlaricBalth's picture

Intimidation is a predominant consideration. Under the sentencing guidelines, certain charges carry various ranges of sentencing recommendations for the judge to follow. It is based on a scoring system that adds or takes away points based upon certain conditions. For example, if you have a prior conviction, you may get points. If you accept responsibility for your alleged actions, you may have points subtracted from your tally.

Thanks to the Booker Decision in the Supreme Court, federal mandatory sentencing guidelines were ruled unconstitutional. Judges were given a limited amount of discretion when deciding on a sentence.

Prosecutors use this sentencing leverage when in pre-trial negotiations. He will say to a defendant that he can recommend to the judge a lenient sentence if the defendant pleads guilty. It saves a lot of time and money. If the defendant declines and goes to trial it is all but guaranteed that a judge is going to hammer out a hard sentence just for wasting the courts time on a trial.

A Nanny Moose's picture

a judge is going to hammer out a hard sentence just for wasting the courts time on a trial.

Doesn't this presume a guilty verdict by a jury? It only takes one informed jury to nullify absurd laws.

AlaricBalth's picture

Yes. Agreed.
But isn't informed jury an oxymoron?
Wanted to up arrow you but when you use italics at the beginning of a comment, for some reason it gets blocked.

And as an aside, the Division Bell is one of my favorite albums. Great avatar photo.

MachineMan's picture

Maybe you need to employ the "Yes I smoke it but I don't inhale" defense tactic.

monad's picture

For perspective whats the mandatory minimum for murder? In most cases how hard is that to pleas down to manslaughter?

In 14 months, after doing both Ollie's and GHB's time, George Jung will be free at last. 

secret_sam's picture

All forms of drug prohibition are unconstitutional tyranny.  The State has no legitimate authority to decide for me what chemicals I prefer to consume, nor does it have any legitimate authority to search my body unless as a precondition of some granted privilege which I would not otherwise enjoy.

Smash the state.