Undo This Legacy of Len Bias’s Death

Today’s Washtington Post ran this opinion peice on mandatory minimums for drug possession. The rates of incarceration are actually more shocking than thay present:

  • Federal prison inmates whose most serious conviction was a drug crime rose from 4,749 in 1980 to 77,867 in 2004. (1540%) Source: Maguire, Kathleen and Ann L.Pastore, eds. Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics. Available: http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook/ [Retrieved 7/3/05].
  • State prison inmates whose most serious conviction was a drug crime rose from 19,000 in 1980 to 246,100 in 2001. (1195%) Source: Prisoners in 2002 & Prisoners in 1994, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Available: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pubalp2.htm#Prisoners [Retrieved 7/3/05]
  • Jail inmates whose most serious charge was a drug crime rose from 20,420 in 1983 to 155,249 in 2002. (660%) Source: Maguire, Kathleen and Ann L.Pastore, eds. Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics. Available: http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook/ [Retrieved 7/3/05].
  • From 1986 to 1999 the average term drug offenders entering prison could expect to serve rose from an average 30 months to 66 months. (120%) Source: Federal Drug Offenders, 1999 with Trends, 1984-99, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Available: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/fdo99.htm [Retrieved 7/3/05]

Many states, including Michigan, have eased or repealed mandatory minimum sentences. With tight state budgets and explosive growth in prison costs, these state level efforts have been bipartisan.