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Drugs and Prisons

While differences in politics or philosophy can lead to debate about the best course of action for bettering our national drug problem, no one who looks at the statistics that illustrate the consequences of drug abuse and addiction can deny the enormous monetary and human costs of drugs.

Any conversation on the social costs of drug use must surely contain at least a mention of the enormous numbers of Americans who are or have been incarcerated due to either the use or sale of illegal drugs.

Some of the facts:

  • In 2008, according to the Department of Corrections, there were 7,308,200 Americans in the corrections system. On a per capita basis, America has far more of its citizens in jails than any other country in the world. Following America are Russia, Rwanda, St Kitts & Nevis and Cuba.
  • In 2007, it cost a state prison an average of $67.55 per day to jail a drug offender. In 2007, state prisons held 253,300 men women and minors, which totals up to a daily cost of $17,110,415 and an annual cost of $6,245,301,475.
  • In 2008, states spent $52 billion in jailing people, which is more than twice the amount that was spent on public assistance of all kinds ($25.1 billion)
  • In 2006, of those held in state prisons on drug offences, Of the estimated 265,800 prisoners under state jurisdiction sentenced for drug offenses in 2006, 27.1 % were white (27.1%), 44.2% were black and 21% were Hispanic. Blacks account for just over 12% of the total American population.
  • In 2000, the average drug felony offender in federal prisons had been sentenced to 75.6 months, which is just slightly less than the average sentence of 86.6 months given to federal offenders who had committed felony violent crimes. 1
  • Since 1992, more than 5 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana. In 1999 - 60 000 Americans were serving time for marijuana offenses.
  • Every extra dollar that is spent by local, state or federal governments on substance abuse treatment yields an eventual social costs savings of $7.462

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