President Obama’ “conceit was preposterous” when he visited federal inmates in Oklahoma and said, “these are young people who made mistakes that aren't that different than the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you [journalists] made,” Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute writes in the Wall Street Journal. The implication was that anyone who had smoked marijuana and tried cocaine (as Obama had) could land in a place like the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution. In reality, “it takes a lot more than marijuana or cocaine use to end up in federal prison,” Mac Donald says.
“Activists, politicians and the media have spent the past year broadcasting a daily message that the criminal-justice system is biased against blacks and insanely draconian,” Mac Donald writes. She says that in 2013, drug offenders made up less than 16 percent of the state-prison population; violent felons were 54 percent and property offenders 19 percent. Reducing drug-related admissions to 15 large state penitentiaries by half would lower those states' prison count by only 7 percent, says the Urban Institute. Another myth promoted by the deincarceration movement, Mac Donald says, is that blacks are disproportionately targeted by federal drug prosecutions. Actually, Hispanics made up 48 percent of drug offenders sentenced in federal courts in 2013; blacks were 27 percent, and whites 22 percent.