According to an article in Parade magazine back in March, one out of every 31 adults in the U.S. is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release. That is astronomical. That number, by the quote, appears not to include those who have been released and are no longer are on any type of supervision. I wonder what those numbers would be.
Further, according to the article, the U.S. has by far the world’s highest incarceration rate at 756 inmates per 100,000 residents which is nearly five times the average worldwide of 158 for every 100,000. THAT number is just those who are currently in jail or prison.
So, what’s up with that? Are Americans really so bad that we have to lock so many up to be safe? To be free? How free is that?
The article also stated that 47.5% of all drug arrests in our country in 2007 were for marijuana offenses. More importantly, nearly 60% - OVER HALF – of people in prisons serving time for drug offenses had no history of violence or significant sales of drugs. In fact, four out of five drug arrests in the U.S. were for possession, while only one out of five were for sales. Clearly we are not slowing the traffickers down by busting the addicted (who many times are the mentally ill trying to self treat.)
What is the answer? Having practiced in Harris County & read about the goings on here, I would bet (I have no numbers) that this county has a greater percentage of the possession arrests per capita. I know that I have read statistics that we have the highest revocation rate in the State of Texas. That is no surprise to me.
At one time, according to a former chief of police, he had encouraged officers to essentially “handle” residue cases but politics, being what they were, resulted not only in that suggestion being ignored, but the chief was indicted (on another matter).
Current DA Lykos has generally proposed a pre-trial diversion method of handling DWIs. Again, I do not know the numbers but I do not think this effort will make any significant difference in the jail & prison populations. (I am not against the idea; I just question what cases might receive such an offer – one that should be dismissed?)
How about having officers issue summons on residue & marijuana cases like they do in other cities & states? How about reviewing the case for a 60 or 90 day reset with a dismissal to be the prize if the party can pass a couple of unscheduled urine tests? How about a contribution to Crimestoppers as a condition, in lieu of posting a bond? (Bondsmen won’t like that suggestion, I am sure.)
We need to get the numbers down. Our citizens are not worse than other countries – no way. Yet, in this home of the “free” – we are locking them up by the numbers. What gives? (I can answer that – your tax dollars give & give & give - to support those incarcerated AND to support those who can't get jobs because of their criminal records.)