We hear a lot about drug war incarcerations filling our jails… Is it true?

Not really.

Alabama’s prisons are so stretched beyond capacity, though, that there are no easy targets. A favorite of the general public — drug users arrested for petty offenses — arises from a common misconception that drug offenders make up a majority or a large chunk of the inmate population.

Statistics from the Alabama Sentencing Commission, though, unequivocally show that is not true.

Prisons must be full of drug users?

Drug offenders accounted for 36.6 percent of all new prison admissions from Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2012.

First time pot convictions?

The inmate population as of Sept. 5 — a snapshot from the most recent data available — included just 347 people whose most serious conviction was for first-degree possession of marijuana. That represents 1.4 percent of the inmates incarcerated that day.

What about other drug offenses?

Throw in all drug offenders — a category that includes cocaine possession, drug distribution and trafficking — and the proportion of the inmate population rises to 17 percent. That is in line with the national average for inmates in state prisons.

OK, what about non-violent criminals?

Beyond drug offenders, there are not a whole of other nonviolent inmates in Alabama’s prisons, the Sentencing Commission statistics show. The September snapshot counted 72 percent of inmates as having been convicted of violent crimes.

That’s still a lot of non-violent prisoners…

On the flip side of the coin, some of the 28 percent of inmates serving sentences for nonviolent crimes have violent offenses on their records.

Add all that up and you have like 8.6% of non-violent prisoners/1st time pot prisoners.

15.6% – cocaine/trafficking/distribution
72% – violent offenders
87.6% of the prison population

12.4% remains

28% of that 11% have prior violent conviction, so that’s about 3.8%.

Which leaves 8.6% of prisoners are non-violent, non-(hard)drug offenses.

As I stated before 1.4% of the prison population at any given time are there for pot possession alone.

Well this is way more complicated than people think.

Props to Gov. Bentley, who came on my show and said we need to build new prisons.


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