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Community Problem Report: U.

S prison population
Rhetoric & Composition 1301
Vianey Cervantes
11/06/201

Abstract
U.S prisons are reaching up to 40% above capacity, 50% of those inmates are convicted
for minor drug possession. It has been proven that it cost the government more money to keep an
inmate incarcerated versus assigning them counseling and or community service. Not many
Americans are aware of the high consequences that the ones convicted will face for a minor
possession charge on a soft drug. Marijuana for example, is the leading drug choice for the ones
convicted, but is only illegal in certain states. It approximately cost $35,000 yearly for every
inmate to be incarcerated. If the government would modify possession of illegal soft substances
into a ticket, enforcing counseling, and community service, there would be dramatic decreasing
in the U.S prison population.

U.S Facts and information you should know.


According to K. Miles in the diagram Just How Much the War Drugs Impact Our
Overcrowded Prisons, In One Chart U.S. prisons are ridiculously overcrowded. Not to mention
50% of the inmates are in there for minor drug offense. The war on drugs is causing prisons to
become extremely dangerous, and have increased population enormously over the past years.
Marijuana possession is the leading drug

Figure 1. A chart showing the percentages of drug


offenses compared to every other crime in 2014

offense for the ones convicted. To support this


and give citizens an idea of what the
percentages and charts look like over past
decades, P. Engel states that Drug convictions
went from 15 inmates per every 100,000 adults
in 1980 to 148 per 100,000 in1996. That is
more than quadruple the amount in just 16 years, making it about 10 times as much. In 2009,
1.66 million Americans were arrested with a minor drug charge, making it more than assault and
larceny combined. This should help realize that our government is worried about the wrong
crimes out there.
These are just poor choices that are probably made because of a rough time in someones
life. Does this really mean they should be punished and arrested, their future can be ruined for
good because of a minor mistake? Why not consider offering help like counseling and having
modifications made to their consequences. In the article Drug Possession and Sentencing its
mentioned that those convicted on drug charges face a wide gamut of penalties at sentencing,
varying from state to state. Penalties for simple possession range from a fine of less than $100

and/or a few days in jail to thousands of dollars and several years in state prison for the same
offense. A class C misdemeanor of assault can lead to a fine of up to $500. Although this is when
an assault involving threats of physical harm occurs it is not as harsh as the punishment for a
non-violent offense such as marijuana possession. This is according to (2015) Drug Possession
Penalties and Sentencing.
Does a minor possession charge even compare to an assault? The U.S has the highest
average population in prisons of the world, and we they are filled with drug users. Now how is it
that the U.S manages and affords to keep such a high population in prisons? Drugs are a
contributing factor to the United States economy. Making drugs legal would stop the benefit that
the government has as far as arresting people for these offenses, which stops them from making
them money off of probation, court, and jail fees. On the other hand if marijuana became legal or
was lowered defense, the government will not have as many inmates in jails for drug related
offenses so they will be saving anywhere between $20,000 and $40,000 per year for every
inmate. The funds allocated to corrections departments across the U.S take up a significant
portion of state budgets. According to (2014) What is the Average Cost to House Inmates in
Prison?

Texas Marijuana Possession Laws and Penalties

The legal definition of marijuana possession is defined by Texas Health and Safety
Code. Marijuana is in its own category in the possession law and, for the purposes of marijuana
possession, is defined as any Cannabis sativa plant, whether it is growing or not, the seeds of the
plant and any preparation of the plant such as a joint or a package containing dried and shredded

buds. (2015) - Drug Possession Marijuana. In the state of Texas 2 ounces of marijuana or less
is classified as a Class B misdemeanor, meaning that it would cost the offender no more than 180
in a county jail and/ or a fine of not more than $2,000. Now, the possession of more than 4
ounces, but less than 5 pounds would be a state felony. Getting charged with this would mean
180 days to 2 years in a state jail and/or a fine of not more than $10,000. Anything more than 5
pounds but less than 50 pounds would be a third degree felony equaling 2 to 10 years in a state
prison and a fine not more than $10,000. Not many Americans are aware that the ones convicted
can be sentenced to a suspended drivers license for up to six months following a conviction on
any violation of the Texas Controlled Substances Act, including marijuana. Texas does offer
programs for the first time offenders called diversion programs and are made to avoid harsh
penalties. Proving that there is no need to be arrested for a simple minor possession charge under
2 ounces. It would save the government money and time to give a ticket and force to take these
programs and community service, making it a win, win situation to the community and the first
time offender.

Assault versus possession of marijuana.

Normally, a simple assault that results in minor injury is a Class A misdemeanor,


punishable by not more than 1 year in a county jail and/or a fine of not more than $4,000. This
would fall right in between the same charge as anything over 2 ounces of marijuana to 5 ounces.
When the assault involves only touching or threatening, its a Class C misdemeanor, for which
the penalty is a fine of up to $500. Not even the first minor offense of possession of marijuana is
that low.

El Paso Case on Domestic Violence in September 2015


In the city El Paso, Texas there was a 19 year old male who was charged with family
domestic violence against his 20 year old girlfriend. This happened in the beginning of
September in 2015 at the motel 6 off of lomaland and the highway I-10. The couple had been
staying there for a couple nights till one morning an argument turned into a physical fight. The
female was beat, punched, chocked, and slammed on the floor. At one point she tried to run out
of the room and seek for help but the male went after her the second she took a step out the door
and carried her back in. Luckily there was a witness two doors down from their room and called
the cops. By the time the cops arrived the fighting had stopped and the couple were on their way
out. When the male saw the police officer approaching him he tried running off, and instantly
picked up an avoiding arrest charge after they saw the females face. She has a black swollen eye,
a busted lip, a bruise on her left ear, and marks on her neck from the chocking. The police officer
questioned her and she denied but it was only obvious what had happened. They took the case
seriously and took pictures of her and filled a report. Once they had the male in the cop car they
searched the room they were staying in and found 2 grams of mushrooms, and a little bit of
cannabis concentrated oil, and 4 grams of marijuana. The male was the one convicted for all
drugs and the women was taken home with no charge filed against her. He is now facing a
assault causing bodily injury against family for $2,500, a MAN DEL CS PG 2 OR 2-A
>=4G<400G for $20,000, a possession charge of marijuana for $750, and an evading arrest
charge for $750. Out of all these charges the cannabis oil and mushrooms were the highest crime.
It is more than double the amount for beating his girlfriend. This case has had several court dates
because investigation is still going on. The male till this day plays not guilty so the female had to
testify against his and is now being charges with assault-impede breath for chocking her, for

$5,000. This charge still doesnt come close to the amount of the drug possession. Would many
people agree that this is fair? If it wasnt for him having these drugs his offenses would be less
than half from what they are now.

Making a Change

The federal prison population has expanded by nearly 800 percent in the past 30 years,
supported in part by the increasing use of tougher sentences applied to nonviolent drug crimes.
U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent federal agency, plans to vote on an amendment to
sentencing guidelines. This could help begin to lower the federal prison population, nearly half
of whom are people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. Barack Obama commuted the
sentences of 46 men and women convicted for nonviolent drug offenses. These men and women
were not hardened criminals, Obama said in his announcement. But the overwhelming
majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years. Fourteen of them had been sentenced for life for
nonviolent drug offenses. So their punishments didnt fit the crime. A. Yuhas (2015). Having
our president support that nonviolent minor drug charges makes a huge impact on Americans
opinion, even though not everyone agrees most do. In a new Pew Research Center report, 67% of
people said government should focus more on treating people who use illegal drugs, compared
with 26% saying prosecution should be the focus. More than six-in-ten (63%) now say that state
moves away from mandatory prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders is a good thing,
versus 32% who called it a bad thing. D. Desilver (2014) Feds may be rethinking the war, but
states have been leading the way. There has been a main focus on drug crimes in these past
years, when the more focus should be shifted to burglary, gang members, assault, driving while

Figure 2. Snoop Dogg smoking a joint on


live t.v. during his interview in 2012.

intoxicated, ect. What I mean by that is the United


States has bigger things to worry about, there are so
many criminals out there that do deserve being in jail
instead of someone with a minor possession charge that
simply needs help for his/hers poor habits. Snoop says
himself, What would America look like then? There

would be less high-speed chases, less robberies, less crime, he says. Go to Amsterdam or the
Netherlands, where it is legal, and you see that the crime rate is nonexistent, the murder rate is
probably under 10 percent, and people learn to get along! There are people riding on bicycles
being happy and it's because of the environment that's provided by the legalization of
marijuana. It is time for American to make a change.

Resources

Childress, S. (2014, April 9). Feds to Reconsider Harsh Prison Terms for Drug
Offenders. Retrieved
October 23, 2015.

Desilver, D. (2014, April 2). Feds may be rethinking the drug war, but states have
been leading the way.

Retrieved October 23, 2015.

Drug Possession Marijuana. (2015). Retrieved November 9, 2015.


Drug Possession Penalties and Sentencing - FindLaw. (2015). Retrieved October 23,
2015.
Engel, P. (2014, April 23). Watch How Quickly The War On Drugs Changed America's
Prison Population.

Retrieved October 22, 2015.

Miles, K. (2014, March 10). Just How Much The War On Drugs Impacts Our
Overcrowded Prisons, In One

Chart. Retrieved October 22, 2015.

The Hollywood Reporter. (2012, September 26). Snoop Dogg On Smoking Pot With
His Son And Meeting

Barack Obama. Retrieved October 12, 2015.

What is the Average Cost to House Inmates in Prison? (2015). Retrieved October 23,
2015.
Yuhas, A. (2015, July 13). Obama reduces sentences of 46 inmates convicted of
nonviolent drug crimes.

Retrieved October 23, 2015.