By Bill Maher
An interesting study from the Urban Institute has found that, despite the rhetoric about mass incarceration and reducing sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders, keeping non-violent drug offenders out of jail does little to change the problem of mass incarceration. Says the report, “Even if every person in state prison for a drug offense were released today, mass incarceration would persist.”
In New Jersey, for instance, “Cutting in half the number of people sent to prison for drug crimes would reduce the prison population at the end of 2021 by only 3 percent,” according to a New York Times analysis of the study.
But if you wanted to reduce the prison population by 25 percent, you could do that by cutting in half the sentences of violent offenders. And politically, that ain’t going to happen.
Yes, it turns out that our prisons aren’t filled up with non-violent drug offenders, as we’ve often been led to believe. They’re filled up with the other kind of prisoner. This is not an argument against releasing non-violent drug offenders, of course, but it does make it pretty clear that mass incarceration and non-violent drug offenses are two fairly unrelated issues.