People of Color in State Prison for Drug Offenses

"The number of people in state prisons for drug offenses has increased 550 percent over the last 20 years. A recent JPI report found that the amount spent on 'cops and courts' – not rates of drug use -- is correlated to admissions to prison for drug offenses. Counties that spend more on law enforcement and the judiciary admit more people to prison for drug offenses than counties that spend less. And increases in federal funding through the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Grant Program have promoted increases in resources dedicated to drug enforcement. As crime continues to fall in many communities, law enforcement will have more time to focus on aggressive policing of drug offenses; this can be expected to lead to even higher drug imprisonment rates and crowded jails and prisons. According to FBI reports, 83 percent of drug arrests are for possession of illegal drugs alone.16 And regardless of crime in a particular jurisdiction, police often target the same neighborhoods to make drug arrests, which can increase the disproportionate incarceration of people of color."


Justice Policy Institute, "Pruning Prisons: How Cutting Corrections Can Save Money and Protect Public Safety," (Washington, DC: May 2009), p. 6.