According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report (PDF) released yesterday, 2.3 million Americans were behind bars in 2007, 1.5 percent more than in 2006 and a new record. The number includes about 780,000 people in local jails, 1.4 million in state prisons, and 200,000 in federal prison. Roughly one in five state prisoners and more than half of federal prisoners were serving time for drug offenses. Assuming the percentage of drug offenders in jails is similar to the percentage in state prisons, the total is more than half a million. "That is ten times the total in 1980," notes the Drug Policy Alliance, "and more than all of western Europe (with a much larger population) incarcerates for all offenses."
I showed how the U.S. incarceration rate compares to those of other countries in the June issue of reason.