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.
sangell's picture

Go look at the rap sheet of your basic criminal ( they are on line in Florida). You will see any number of misdemeanor arrests for drug and paraphrenalia possession before they hit the big time and get their felony charges. Does a guy who is put in prison for armed robbery, does a few years, gets out and is picked up for possession of marijuana count as a 'non violent' felon when he is sent back to the hoosegow? The  oxocodone addict who has an adjudication withheld on her first possession charge, gets a felony conviction for forging a prescription but no prison time for her second felony and only on her third felony conviction qualify for prison and the label 'non violent' offender when she may have sold pills to some 19 year old whose parents find their child dead from an OD or whose pill deals caused any number of violent felonies by her customers really a 'non violent' criminal?

secret_sam's picture

You obviously don't know what "non-violent crime" means.  Your own ignorance is a poor effort at "argument."

css1971's picture

The netherlands allows cannabis consumption and you know what? The world didn't end. The country still exists, people go about their daily business. Crime rates of almost all types are lower than the US.

Switzerland mandates an assault rifle in virtually every home, yet the murder rate is substantially below the US.


The problems are not guns and drugs.

HurricaneSeason's picture

I've always wondered if you make coffee cost $10,000 a pound and attach a 20 year prison sentence for drinking it, if you'd end up with some crazed crackhead-like killers hiding in the basement drinking coffee and robbing houses for copper.

sangell's picture

But the Dutch are reregulating their cannabis rules because it is no longer a 'groovey' as it seemed to be a first. Doper tourists are not so lucrative and modern marijuana far stronger so they are reclassifying the 'good stuff' as a hard drug.

Relentless's picture

Don't call me Shirley

chistletoe's picture

reminder ....


every person who is in jail


is a person who is not part of the unemployment statistic.

Yen Cross's picture

 the loan ratio in 2012 was 95% Government funded..

Waterfallsparkles's picture

Interesing conclusion.  If almost all Americans decided not to turn in their Guns.  Where would they imprison them? 

Waterfallsparkles's picture

Can you even imagine if 100,000 people in the United States failed to give up their Guns and were arrested for violation of the Law what would happen?

Where would the put them?  How much would it cost to take Tax Paying Citizens and put them in a Jail?  How much would the Government lose on Tax Revenue? How much would it cost to support those Citizens while they were in Jail.  What is the number? $58,000. per prisioner, per year?  With the revenue from their Taxes gone and the cost to imprision them, how much will the Government lose each year?


HurricaneSeason's picture

You're not looking at it right. How many great jobs for guards, parole officers, cooks and prison builders would there be? They would all pay taxes and they are the good people. We just need some bad people to watch. This is a job creating solution our politicians are capable of coming up with, anything much more complicated and no. The Bernank would lend us another trillion(that he doesn't have) at a low interest rate. If we can't finalize the Gingrich moon base plan, then prisons should be plan B because it's government simple.

DanDaley's picture

They don't actually want your guns, they want to know where they are so that they can get them at some future time, probably little by little -so as not to make too many waves,




they want to tax the living life out of ammo, guns, licenses, scopes, and everything else even remotely related to firearms. They won't come for you like a lion, they will come like a slithering anaconda. 

Matt's picture

At $100,000 per year per prisoner, 100,000 prisoners would cost $10 billion per year. To put it another way, that's about 3 days worth of QE at current rate. 

SubjectivObject's picture

Read elswhere by a CA lawyer that CA is running out of money and closing courts houses.  Funding for priisons probably under the same constraints.


Yen Cross's picture

 Fire 2/3rds of Californias (Magestrates and Support staff) and gain 2-3 $billion in usable monies/monys to re-invest!

Shizzmoney's picture

Big fan of Daniel D'Amico.  Really insightful stuff on the inequality that we call "the law" and the criminal justice system.

laomei's picture

For profit prisons of course.  Not to mention the prison labor that they generate, which further depresses local wages.  It's in everyone's interest to lock up as many people as possible.


Cops get more overtime pay, more toys to play with and more "stats".  Local governments get to claim a large crackdown in crime, which boosts property values as well as property taxes.  Prisons turn a profit as well which hire locals in some shithole that gets a boost to employment.  Then there's the slave labor for corporate.  All paid for by you the tax-payer, to lock yourselves up, whereas that same money could have just been flat out spent to not result in a society that breeds the crime in the first place.  But... that would be socialism, and where's the profit in that?

RSDallas's picture

This does not have anything to do with a war on drugs.  This has to do with our federal reserve and government sucking the capital available to the citizens of the United States out of the system and our government taking the stance of catching and feeding the citizens fish for free instead of teaching the citizens how to fish for themselves.  Shame on you Washington!

Stuck on Zero's picture

A lot of these statistics are skewed intentionally.  Having done extensive analysis on California prisons I can tell you that there aren't many "non-violent drug offenders" behind bars.  Most of the rap sheets of state prisoners are ten pages.  Some are 100 pages.  A non-violent drug rap can only mean dozens of really ugly crimes in the past.  Many are sentenced to life because of the three strikes law.  There are gang fellows who have committed rape, robbery, torture, mayhem, maiming, etc. and finally the system gets fed up and tosses them in the clink for possession of a joint.  Next time you feel these guys are getting a bad rap try visiting your local prison and tell me if you'd like to hang out with the inmates.

The real travesty of justice, in my opinion, is taking someone who has served his/her time and dumping them on the street without a job or a support system. Everyone needs help occasionally.


Yen Cross's picture

Stuck on Zero, that was a fantastic post! I have seen millionaires melted down. Men and Women a-like ripped up by (tort, and statutes)! I will raise my rifle's when the time is right!

Savyindallas's picture

I was a state prosecutor for 8 years in two major cities  -California may have let nonviolent offenders out due to their fiscal crisis, but not in other areas. Most users get probation the first go around, then they get their probation revoked for some stupid reason like pissing off their probation officer, not reporting, smoking a joint and flunking a urine test  -then they get out and can't get a job because they have a prison record and go on to other crimes. Of course we seem to fill our jails a lot with DUIs  -family violence -try looking at your wife or girlfriend funny and see how fast you get thrown in the tank, courtesy of federal grants to police and State prosecutors.  I know men in jail for 6 months on contempt charges because they missed child support payments  -never mind that they were unemployed and couldn't make the payments.

Yen Cross's picture

Savyindallas you have my interest on that " Federal Grant " (personal for you) impositional sentence...

  So, In fact you are stating grants are posted to departments, and "NOT" individuals for arrests?

  Answer the question SAVY!  Are you for gun control? I took Hunter Safety training at 14. Tell me ass hole 1/2 my age how you know more about guns than me?

Shizzmoney's picture

I don't have a problem with legalizing things that allow a person to "ocassionally escape" their daily stresses and relax a little with their friends.  Moderation is key, obviously.

However, we are continuing to structure and build a society so full of stresses, and so distorted and contorted, from anyone's idea of what "normal" should be.

I worry that we are building a "toolbox" of things that you could use to destroy yourself and your family, just "to escape it all".

Booze, drugs, gambling, porn, and on and on... all because we just can't live with our way of life. We can't live with the corruption, the broken economy, the social expectations, the greed, the abuse, the apathy, the fraud, the betrayals, and the assholes who "run" our system, claiming they are "elite".

Personally, I don't care if we make pot legal.  Nothing will happen, the Sun will rise the next day.

But we sure better start working to build a kinder, fairer, and more balanced society....or we will eventually run out of "escapes" and then we will have to face something that can no longer be fixed.

Savyindallas's picture

The war on drugs has been a smashing success!! Look at all the criminals we've caught. This is great. And wait until we get the 30,000 drones up in operation. Can you imagine how many traffic offender criminals we will catch?  The great thing about it is we don't to have to spend $100,000 per prisoner like we used to do - it's a matter of national security and the Patriot Act will allow us to keep the offenders in FEMA camps at a mere fraction of the cost-liberal Federal judges won't even have jurisdiction over the matter.  And Halliburton can put them all to work making bombs and guns to be used to kill all the Muslims in the war on terror.

 I'm tired of all you negative anti-American Ron Paul liberals. This is a good thing. Stalin did the same thing and made Russia a power second only to the US. Yes, I agree that there were abuses in the Gulags - and we can and will strive to make our prisons better  -more efficient and even more humane than the Commies did. That's what America is all about  - a beacon of light for the world.  

Yen Cross's picture

  We don't need no 'body/BODY Armour'. A few good cops/ex, can make it all good. /sarc

 Savy your friends will turn on you in an instant... they were bred/bread for Reliance...

  You're welcome.

ZeroAvatar's picture

You don't have a 'license' to  carry that firearm?


Say hello to 'prezone'.................




...........and BUBBA.

earleflorida's picture

'An abstract synonym in a concrete versed history?'

The way forward:  way back in the 18th century the opium trade was a very lucrative commodity, especially for the British via China. the main prolific`propagator drug lord was... de Rothschild family!

Prologue: the Sassoon family married into the Rothschild family. the Rothschild's commissioned the Sassoon's for the opium trade with the help of the British navy and a certain Lord John Winston Spencer Churchill... Winston Churchill's grandfather. but, what most readers are unaware of, was that Warren Delano, the grandfather of FDR was perhaps the only american, gaining fabulous 'great-wealth' with his merchant fleet controlling the ports of Hong Kong and the distribution of opium throughout China-- working directly under the supervision of the  Sassoon's via Rothschilds. 

But, there was an unwritten law/ agreement regarding the European elitist, that no 'Opium" be subjected to the people for profit or recreation in all of mainstream Europe, period!  No one dared cross the line because of the lucrative trade.

Epilogue:   The same drug trafficking is happening today in modern Americana! The exact same bullshit that took place in China in the 18th century, accept the geography has changed, and we the american people are paying the price for a diabolical grand plan to destroy from within... as did the same Chinese people. Today, we imprison ~ 75% of inmates for drug offences, but in China they just took them outside and executed them. America's private prison system is just icing on the cake for 'TPTB' as I've mentioned above.

Time to wake-up america!



Yen Cross's picture

 Give me a break? Antonyms _ Homonyms?   Let's guess, Law Skool, Best Buy> Greeter. 

Super nice Person that is vagina challenged

earleflorida's picture

yen cross... what the fuck is that anyhow!

must be a hybred jap from an illegitiment chinese opium-den whore

c'mon... i've got to be half right?

Yen Cross's picture

 The  wana be cops are out tonight! Credit Union Cops/

ZeroAvatar's picture

Obeyme can create a new cartoon character, 'GIBSME, THE GUN GRABBING OCTOPUS', to illustrate to all the lowly-educated sheeple the need to take away all our rifles, you know, TO KEEP AMERICA SAFE,!!!, and shit. 


Then those of us who are honest, intelligent, hard working people can do time in FEDERAL POUND-ME-IN-THE-ASS-PRISON! (even if we didn't comply because we lost our guns in a MOTHERFUCKING BOATING ACCIDENT, BITCHEZ! /Sam Kinison 'off'

ZeroAvatar's picture

"GIBSME'  could then morph into 'THE EBT, SECTION 8 AND OBAMAOPHONE GIVEAWAY GIBBON.   Monkeys gonna grab, right?

ZeroAvatar's picture

Then,  CONZINE THE CLOWN can come on TEEVEE (I know, Freddie, I know)  and tell everyone about our ECONOMIC RECOVERY.

ItsDanger's picture

You have a major problem when there are guys in prison serving 15 yrs or so for possession of crack.  Meanwhile, Wall Street crooks run wild.