America Doesn't Need a War on Drugs

by David Segal (March 2, 2000)


In 1970, fewer than 200,000 Americans were behind bars.  By contrast, 840,000 Americans were sent to prison just in the decade of the 1990s, and the effect is cumulative, which is why we are at more than 2 million today....Less than a third of the people sentenced to jail each year have been convicted of a violent crime, and at least 400,000 inmates are serving time for non-violent drug offenses.

The cost of keeping 2 million prisoners behind bars is $40 billion a year, or about $20,000 per prisoner....Blacks are about 15 percent of all drug users, but about 74 percent of those imprisoned for drug crimes are blacks according to government statistics.