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Drug crimes and the federal prison population

At times, it may seem that the War on Drugs is not doing enough to keep offenders off the streets of Ohio. However, the population of federal prisoners increased by 800 percent between 1980, when the increased attention to drug trafficking began, and 2012. Unfortunately, the rising prison population has created a stress on the resources needed to maintain these prisoners. Statistics indicate that at least half of federal prisoners are held because of drug activity, primarily trafficking.

In evaluating the existing population, it is helpful to identify demographic details that may provide insight into areas in which reform could be made. For example, more than 30 percent of drug offenders have little prior history of criminal activity. Reforms being considered by the nation's lawmakers and judicial system might provide judges with alternatives to incarceration for these individuals. More than 50 percent of the drug cases represented in the federal prison population involve some form of cocaine. Marijuana is only an issue in one of every eight cases. With changing laws related to the medical and recreational use of marijuana, these numbers may decrease as access to the substance is altered in some states.

Marijuana is statistically the most common substance trafficked by federal prisoners under the age of 20, and the number of young people serving such drug sentences is very small in comparison to other age groups. Educational initiatives and alternative sentencing at this early age may be an area to consider in an effort to deter future drug offenses. Reserving harsher sentencing for repeat offenders and those handling the most dangerous substances might better utilize federal resources.

In a drug defense, a prior conviction does not automatically imply guilt. It is important for a defendant to have a fair trial to evaluate the facts of the case. Legal representation may be important for ensuring that a defendant's rights are protected during such proceedings.

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