Criminal Justice

Misery Gets Company

Incarceration record

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In 2007, according to a December report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a record 2.3 million Americans were behind bars. That was 1.5 percent more than in 2006. 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.

If 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," the Drug Policy Alliance noted in a press release, "and more than all of western Europe (with a much larger population) incarcerates for all offenses."