Task Force: Drug Sentences Fuel Bloated Federal Prisons


Long sentences for drug offenses have fueled the rapid growth of the federal prison population during the last two decades, according to the Congressional Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections.

There were nearly 50,000 more drug offenders in federal prison in Fiscal Year 2013, than there were 20 years prior, according to a policy brief released by theTask Force.

The number of drug offenders admitted to federal prisons has remained consistent, about 30,000 per year, for more than a decade, but the prison populations have grown as inmates remain imprisoned with long sentences.

For drug offenders in prison at the end of FY 2013, the Task Force reports:

  • the average sentence was 11 years, and almost all will serve at least 87 percent of the sentence;
  • three in five were sentenced pursuant to a statutory mandatory minimum penalty for drug trafficking;
  • one in three were in the lowest criminal history category at time of sentencing; and
  • one in four sentences for drug offenses6 explicitly accounted for weapon involvement.

More than 75 percent of all drug offenders in federal prison at the end of FY 2013 were black or Hispanic.

Read the full brief HERE.

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