The War on Drugs is responsible for America's high rates of incarceration
- According to Human Rights Watch, by 2003 the number of incarcerated drug offenders had "increased twelvefold since 1980. In 2000, 22 percent of those in federal and state prisons were convicted on drug charges."
- In her book The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander says, “The impact of the drug war has been astounding. In less than thirty years, the U.S. penal population exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million, with drug convictions accounting for the majority of the increase.” Also, “the uncomfortable reality is that arrests and convictions for drug offenses — not violent crime — have propelled mass incarceration.” She cites data that in "Colorado and Maryland, drug offenders constitute the single largest category of people in prison".
- A Vox article points out that in 2010, "the incarceration rate began to fall in the US for the first time in decades". This drop has been "driven mostly by changes to sentencing laws for low-level drug and property crimes."
- The Vox article distinguishes the prison population itself from the number of people who experience going to prison at some point in their lives, "While the majority of people in state prison at a single point in time are in for violent crimes, many more people are admitted to prison for drug and property offenses than for violent ones."
- The same Vox article says that the recent "drop has been slight" and that "this drop won’t continue — at least in a dramatic fashion — as long as reformers and the public remain focused on a Standard Story that’s almost entirely about the federal war on drugs."
- The Vox article profiles a 2017 book by Fordham University criminal justice expert John Pfaff. The article says that
- "It’s not drug offenses that are driving mass incarceration, but violent ones."
- "It’s not the federal government that’s behind mass incarceration, but a whole host of prison systems down to the local and state level."
- "It’s not solely police and lawmakers leading to more incarceration and lengthy prison sentences, but prosecutors who are by and large out of the political spotlight."
- The United States has the world's highest per-capita incarceration rate
- Prosecutors are driving America's mass incarceration
- Violent offenses are driving America's mass incarceration more than non-violent drug crime
- America's high rates of incarceration are caused in part by public policy changes causing more prison sentences and lengthening time served
- Falling crime rates in the U.S. are due in part to mass incarceration