Figure of all prisoners under state jurisdiction. (see


Figure 10. Percentage of Inmates, male vs female, in federal
prisons, December 2018


Figure 9. Citizenship of Inmates in federal prisons, December

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Figure 8. Offenses committed by prisoners in the US, recorded by
the Federal Bureau of Prisons, December 2017

Jumping forward to December 2017, drug
related offenses are still the highest reason for prisoners as seen in the reports
by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. As the US still has the highest incarceration
rate in the world. (see Figures 8, 9, 10 and 11).


Figure 7. The ethnicity of prisoners sentenced for drug related
offenses, 2014


An illegal drug conviction was the most serious offense
for 206,300 out of the 1,316,409 people in the US that were sentenced in 2014
to state prison facilities. That represents a total 15.7% of all prisoners
under state jurisdiction. (see Figure 7.)


6. US Dept. of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statics Report, prisoners and their
offences, 2012


In September of 2012, the US Dept. of Justice’s Bureau
of Justice Statistics reported that there was a total of 187,773 people
sentenced and serving time in US federal prison for any offense. Of those, 97,214
of their prisoners had a drug offense as their most serious charge (see Figure 6.)


5. Estimated number of arrests by type of drug law violation, 1982-2007.


4. Number of arrests, by drug type, 1982-2007


3. Combined State incarceration rate by crime type, 1980-2010

The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, was a U.S Federal statute
intended to increase the level of consistency in federal sentencing. However,
in 1986, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which established mandatory
minimum sentences for certain drug offences. This law was heavily criticized
later on as it gave longer prison sentences for offences involving the same
amount of crack cocaine (mainly used by African Americans) as powder cocaine (more
often used by White Americans). Drug possession arrest rates started to
skyrocket from less than 200 arrests per 100,000 people in 1979 to more than
500 per 100,000 in the mid-2000s. Drug related incarcerations were and continue
to be the highest recorded. (see Figures 3.,4. And 5.)


2. US Incarceration Rates from 1920-2008

Though the war on drugs was declared in 1971, it took
a slight break between 1973 and 1977 as eleven states decriminalized marijuana
possession. When Jimmy Carter became president in 1977, during his first year, the
Senate Judiciary Committee voted to decriminalize up to one ounce of marijuana.
This however did not last very long as in the 1980’s, President Ronald Reagan
reinforced and expanded many of Nixon’s policies. His refocus on drugs led to a
significant increase in incarcerations for nonviolent drug crimes (as shown in
Figure 2). The number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law violations
increased from 50,000 in 1980 to more than 400,000 by 1977.


1. DEA Domestic Arrests, 1986-2016

Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in
1973. This agency was and still is responsible for tackling drug use and
smuggling into the USA. In the beginning, the DEA was given 1,470 special agents
and a budget of less than $75 million. The agency now has almost 5,000 agents
and a budget of over $2.03 billion. Since its creation the DEA has arrested millions
of people for various drug offenses every year. (see figure 1.)