Crazy Awful Idea - Incarcerating People For Their Own Good

Via Carpe Diem

This does not include the millions in state and county jails.  All those drug offenders in jail for a victemless crime, essentially "for their own good."

"I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them. "


  1. Mark2:

    I would distinguish between dealing and running drugs and users. If they are part of the supply chain, I have less sympathy for their plight in jail. Users on the other hand probably should be somewhere else.

    The big problem is this though. Users cost a lot of money. It is often cheaper to jail them, then to let them be free and pay for all their medical costs, housing and food needs, as well as, in some cases, their drug needs. There is also damage to public grounds and disease transmission to worry about.

    If we were in a true libertarian society, it would make sense. Go on drugs, fine, but you are on your own.(though having drug heads randomly wandering the street in such a society might not be desirable either) But we don't live in such a society, so drug users place a cost on all the rest of us.

    Maybe the are some pot heads out there who can nominally function in society, and all means if pot heads are still in jail let them out, but for the rest?????

  2. Brandon Berg:

    This is somewhat misleading; violent and property crimes generally don't fall under federal jurisdiction unless committed in the District of Columbia, so drug crimes are greatly overrepresented at the federal level. And the number of state prisoners exceeds the number of federal prisoners by an order of magnitude, so this is in no way representative of the national prison population.

    At the state level (see tables 16B and 17B in this PDF), 53% of prisoners are in for violent crimes, 19% for property crimes, and only 18% for drug crimes. That 18% represents not "millions," but 243,000.

    I can't find the statistics on this right now, but I'm fairly certain that most of these are in prison for crimes other than simple possession, so it's not really accurate to characterize it as being ostensibly done "for their own good"; it's to protect others from their "predation" (i.e., selling drugs to customers who want to buy them).

    Now, prison population isn't necessarily indicative of number of prisoners sentenced, since some crimes get much longer sentences than others, and number of sentences isn't necessarily indicative of number of arrests, since most people arrested for drug possession aren't sentenced to prison. But in terms of the actual claim being made, it just isn't true that most prisoners are in prison for possession of user-level quantities of drugs.

  3. Henry Bowman:

    I note that the number of people in Federal prison for homicide is substantial, perhaps 6,000 from the graphic. I thought that onky a few types of homicide were illegal under Federal law. I'm wondering why the number is so high.

  4. Brandon Berg:

    Any type of homicide falls under Federal jurisdiction if it happens in the District of Columbia. And a lot of homicide happens in the District of Columbia. Also, the PDF I linked above says about 2,800, not 6,000.

  5. FA Jonez:

    I keep wondering what the connection between 'for profit' prisions and the increases of people incarcerated for 'drug offenses.' SB 1070 seemed to me to be another of those mechanisms to increase prison populations in order to help improve the bottom line of a for profit prison their lobbyists were helping to craft the bill after all.. After all companies need to provide shareholders with growth or they stop investing. And if your product is locking people you up you need to lock more of them up with every passing year. Seems like we need a better metric for these types of prisons.

  6. Ted Rado:

    Locking up drug users seems stupid, except for the fact that many of them steal to support their habit. Perhaps incarceration should be limited to dealers and thieves. If someone wants to ruin their own life, it's a free country.

    I have never even tried pot. When I have been hospitalized, I have minimized my use of painkillers. I am terrified of getting hooked. I know people who got hooked after surgery or accident.

    It is up to each of us to manage our lives so as to stay out of trounle. If soeone chooses not to, they pay a high price without being thrown in jail to boot.

  7. SuperMike:

    Why are weapons and arson counted together? I sense chicanery.

  8. Earle Williams:

    Heh, saw this headline a second time and read it as Incinerating. And me thinks, "But what about all that bad CO2 that would be released?"

  9. Bob Agard:

    I spent too many years as a child protection caseworker to accept the fallacy that drug crimes are victimless crimes.