The United States has only 5 % of the world’s population, but 25 % of its prisoners. The biggest contributing factor to our booming prison population? Drugs, drugs, and more drugs.
The Coalition Against Drug Abuse has just released a report investigating how federal drug sentencing varies across the country, pulling statistics from a 2013 report by the United States Sentencing Commission. They’ve packaged their findings into a series of simple maps and infographics, which give us a detailed picture of just how much the response to drug related offenses varies from state to state. Still, the bottom line is clear: If you’re convicted of a trafficking offense in a US federal court, there’s a good chance you’re going to serve years.
Looking at the top map, we can see that drug sentencings vary starkly across the country, with Western states locking more people away for meth, states along the Mexican border coming down hard on marijuana, and Eastern seaboard states tending to incarcerate for crack, cocaine and heroine. The infographics below break things down further, revealing which states are more or less likely to incarcerate a person for a drug offense, and how sentence durations vary.
A few interesting observations:
- Crack and cocaine (combined) are the drugs that most frequently send people to prison in the US, while pot comes in a close second.
- You really don’t want to be caught trafficking drugs in South Carolina, or Wyoming.
- The proportion of drug-related sentences in West Virginia is nearly double the national average, reflecting the state’s aggressive response to its high drug overdose death rate. (Don’t do drugs in West Virginia.)
- New Mexico has the highest number of trafficking sentences (21.8 per 100,000 residents) but the lowest average time incarcerated (34 months). It’s apparently a revolving door in New Mexican prisons.
Have a look at the numbers yourself:
You can check out the Coalition Against Drug Abuse’s website for a detailed description of their methodology and more information.