Crime: of Inmates in Survey, More Than Half Were Nonviolent with No Serious
Narcotics Record. Also, Minorities Made up a Large Percentage.

WASHINGTON -- More than half of convicted drug offenders at state
prisons have no history of violent crime or serious drug offenses,
and a disproportionate number of them come from poor, minority
communities, a study to be released today has found.

The study by the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based advocacy
group that promotes alternatives to prison, offers a detailed look
at state-incarcerated drug offenders, who made up almost a quarter
of all inmates. It is based on information collected in 1997, when
the last federal survey of state drug prisoners was conducted. An
estimated $5 billion is spent each year to keep drug offenders
locked up.

The findings suggest that what critics call harsh sentencing laws
and shortsighted law enforcement policies to combat illicit drug use
have had the unintended consequence of imprisoning mostly nonviolent
drug offenders, many of them black and Latino.

The record-setting incarceration policies over two decades of the
country's war on drugs have been misguided, ineffective and costly,
said Marc Mauer, coauthor of the study and assistant director of the
Sentencing Project.


Pubdate: Fri, 20 Sep 2002
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)