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Who Is In Our State Prisons?


From the office of California State Senator George Runner comes this report, refuting some of the myths about the state's prison population. Everybody "knows" that our prison population per capita has exploded in the last ten years. No, actually, it has declined. Everybody "knows" that California's "harsh" Three Strikes Law is responsible for explosive prison growth. Actually, the prison population five years after passage of Three Strikes was only two-thirds of what the doomsayers predicted it would be, and it was even lower than the population projections without Three Strikes.


A very interesting read Kent. Do you think the popular perception about the overflowing prison populations comes from the growth of federal prisoners? I haven't looked at the data recently, but I remember hearing years ago that somewhere on the order of 60% of the federal inmates are there on drug charges. Again, I have no idea if this is true or not.

Prisoners committed for drug offenses are, indeed, over half of federal prisoners. (2003 Sourcebook, Table 6.56, page 519.) That doesn't tell us how many plea-bargained to drug offenses after being charged with drugs and other offenses.

More importantly, the vast majority of prisoners are in state prison, not federal. (2003 Sourcebook, Table 6.66, page 526.)

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