Drug War

Drug Offenders in California's Overcrowded Prisons


In the wake of yesterday's Supreme Court decision requiring California to reduce its prison population by about 30,000, Dale Gieringer of California NORML notes that the state was incarcerating nearly 25,000 drug offenders at the end of last year:

A total of 8,587 inmates were being held specifically for simple possession of a controlled substance. Another 1,401 were being held for marijuana-specific felonies. The remaining balance were being held for sales, manufacture or distribution of other controlled substances.

For those who do not equate selling people stuff they want with raping or murdering them, these numbers provide strong grounds for doubting the predictions by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito that the early release of California prisoners will produce a public safety disaster.

The data Gieringer cites are here. Ending the war on drugs is a theme that comes up repeatedly in Reason's July package of articles about America's criminal justice system, which will be on a newsstand near you soon (or in your mailbox, if you are lucky enough to be a subscriber).

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  1. Your prediction that releasing inmates won’t create a public safety hazard assumes that they’ll be letting out the victimless crime perpetrators rather than serial killers. Based on California’s overall fucked-upidness metric, I’m not terribly optimistic that this will be the case…

    1. “Let’s see… child rapist or pot head, who to let out… This is hard!”

      1. I just wonder how many “real” crimes the victimless criminals might have committed but weren’t convicted of?

        I can’t help but think at least some of the druggies are also petty thieves or burglars but aren’t serving time for that right now.

        1. I’m not sure how that’s even relevant. Any one of us might commit a crime sooner or later in certain circumstances. Prison is supposed to punish people convicted of a crime, not socially engineer the possibility of crime out of a free society.

  2. They won’t release druggies.

    They will let felons, et al, go.

    Self serving prophecy.

    1. ^^This^^

      How will they keep the prison industrial complex gravy train rolling if they let out prisoners who only pose a threat to the dorito bag next to them?

      They WANT to let out violent felons so that they can justify stealing more.

  3. No one is more dangerous than a pot smoker.

  4. Does anyone know how they plan on deciding who gets released? Don’t drug offenders get mandatory minimum sentences/no parole? Wonder if that will have an effect?

    1. I heard a report this AM that Jerry Brown already had a plan to transfer the excess to county jails.

      Supposedly it involves low risk inmates with relatively short sentences.

      I don’t know how that will work. IIANM, county jails in CA are almost as full as the state prisons, certainly LA’s is from all reports, so where all the excess capacity is coming from is anyone’s guess.

      I suspect it’s just a matter of the local sherriffs not having been sued yet.

      Looks to me like a plan to just spread the overcrowding around.

  5. “…these numbers provide strong grounds for doubting the predictions by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito that the early release of California prisoners will produce a public safety disaster.”

    I dunno…

    Historically speaking, betting against the State of California doing the rational thing has been a pretty safe bet!

    1. Are you suggesting extortion isn’t rational?

  6. I would imagine they’re scouring their records to find those most likely to cause a total criminal clusterfuck.

    1. Few people love cannabis as much as I do. God, I wuv the ganja.

      Nevertheless, isn’t the case that so many people just plea bargain that it’s impossible to tell their “actual” crime from what they’ve been convicted of?

      One way or another, I predict a PR disaster.

  7. For those who do not equate selling people stuff they want with raping or murdering them…

    Based on the level of penalties in the law, they are basically the same thing.

  8. for crying out loud, how many inmates are in prison for parole or probation violations due to a dirty ua? How many are stuck on parole or probation because of a drug charge? and also, how many prisons guards and parole and probation officers could be shitcanned if they took a sane approach to the problem? questions, questions, questions. It’s like our local school district which just got handed their hat in a recent bond levy to raise taxes to cover school expenses. The first thing they say in the media after getting beaten 60% to 40% is “we are going to layoff 100 teachers, cancel football and other popular sports, and there won’t be any vacation at Xmas or Thanksgiving.” The public is finally asking things like, well the cuts just bring your budget in line with 2007, so what is the fucking problem? It isn’t all the high paid administration duplication is it? Or what about that bank account in which you are keeping your unspent porculus money?

    1. we are going to layoff 100 teachers


      cancel football and other popular sports


      and there won’t be any vacation at Xmas or Thanksgiving

      Wait, how does that save money? I guess they’re willing to work for free a few days just to stick it to parents? That’ll show em! Or, ya know, parents will just ignore that school-day and do whatever they were already planning for the holiday. Because, hey, Teachers: go fuck yourselves. Right in the ear.

      1. The point in California is that they start off by cancelling things people like, shrugging their shoulders, and saying, “See, we told you! Painful!” in the hopes that it staves off more cuts to Leviathan. They’d rather lay off teachers than mid-level bureaucrats because your brilliant average California voter will then start demanding tax and spending increases.

        1. (although mostly just spending increases)

  9. Yeah, it’s a fucking joke. Releasing anyone for any drug-related offenses is a non-starter, because they won’t cause any trouble when they’re released. They need to let real baddies out so they can show that there is just no way to reduce the prison population.

  10. simple soloution.
    release ALL illegal alien offenders.
    do not ship them home as they wld just come back.
    they will take care of all the work americans do not want to do, therebye solving two problems at once.

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