Research

Cost and Benefits? The Impact of Drug Imprisonment in New Jersey

Of the country’s 2 million prisoners,450,000 are incarcerated in prison or jail for drug offenses—more people than the European Union, an entity with a 100 million more people, has in prison for all crimes combined. The 450,000 figure underestimates the role the “war on drugs” plays in the use of incarceration in the country: studies have shown that about a third of America’s prisoners tested positive for drugs or alcohol at the time of their offense.

While the latest Justice Department report on prison populations indicates that there was a substantial growth in the nation’s incarcerated population, there was some hopeful news: from 2001 to 2002 the number of people held in state prisons for drug offenses declined—even as the total number of persons incarcerated for drug offenses went up, because of the increase in drug offenders incarcerated in the federal system.

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