It’s good to see that we’re not making some of the same mistakes that were made with the explosion of crack cocaine use in the 1980s. During the 1980s and 90s incarceration rates for drug crimes skyrocketed and sentences got longer, from our Recovery is everywhere press kit:
- Federal prison inmates whose most serious conviction was a drug crime rose from 4,749 in 1980 to 77,867 in 2004. (A 1540% increase.) Source: Maguire, Kathleen and Ann L. Pastore, eds. Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics
- State prison inmates whose most serious conviction was a drug crime rose from 19,000 in 1980 to 246,100 in 2001. (A 1195% increase.) Source: Prisoners in 2002 & Prisoners in 1994, Bureau of Justice Statistics
- Jail inmates whose most serious charge was a drug crime rose from 20,420 in 1983 to 155,249 in 2002. (A 660% increase.) Source: Maguire, Kathleen and Ann L.Pastore, eds. Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics
- From 1986 to 1999 the average term drug offenders entering prison could expect to serve rose from an average 30 months to 66 months. (A 120% increase.) Source: Federal Drug Offenders, 1999 with Trends, 1984-99, Bureau of Justice Statistics
The suspicions of racism are unfortunate, but as Bill White points out, racism is a part of the history of drug policy in the U.S.