Statistics for federal prisoners with drug-related records

The War on Drugs may be a familiar concern to Michigan citizens, but the increased number of federal prisoners over the last 30 years is causing policy makers to re-evaluate the options for punishing offenders. Approximately 200,000 individuals are currently detained in federal institutions, and more than 50 percent of these individuals are there due to drug offenses. This 800-percent increase from 1980 to 2012 warrants attention as resources needed to detain these parties are stretched.

Those detained for drug crimes include a variety of ages and ethnic backgrounds. The majority of those held are men, and approximately 75 percent are U.S. citizens. White offenders account for just over 21 percent of those held for drug-related issues, while groups of Latino and black offenders each represent just under 40 percent of the population of drug offenders inside federal prison. Most are held because of drug trafficking, but at least one-third have never been imprisoned prior to their current sentences.

As solutions to the increasing prison population are sought, a reform bill has been passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee, providing alternatives that could reduce the numbers in federal institutions. Additionally, the Justice Department is working on measures to provide alternatives for judges dealing with sentencing for federal crimes. Reports indicate that the population in federal facilities is beginning to drop, and this is expected to continue for at least eight more years.

An individual facing federal charges because of a drug offense might seek an opportunity to negotiate for a reduced sentence if the evidence in the case is strong, especially if there isn't a prior criminal history. A lawyer might be helpful for coordinating such negotiations. With weak evidence, an attorney might attempt to have charges dropped. However, each case is unique due to the specific circumstances and individuals involved.