In Florida and practically every other state, there are continual concerns about the overcrowding of prisons. At the center of the debate is whether convictions for drug-related crimes are to blame.
Statistics demonstrate that convicted drug offenders do not make up a majority of the prison population. From 1980 to 1990 when there was a high rate of drug crime convictions, drug offenders made up 22 percent of the prison population. This number had dropped to 17 percent by 2010. However, statistics can be misleading.
A possible reason why this percentage is not higher is because sentences for drug offenses are not as lengthy as the sentences for violent crimes. Whether this is the case, drug crime convictions have for decades been the primary reason for why individuals face incarceration in state and federal prisons. And before we celebrate too much about shorter sentences for drug crimes, it is important to keep in mind that the median incarceration time for drug crimes in state facilities was 14 months as late as 2009.
Another disturbing fact about drug crimes is the impact convictions have on minority populations. Black Americans are much more likely to face arrest for drug crimes. They are also approximately nine more times likely to face incarceration in a state prison due to a drug offense.
Because drug arrests are so common and since drug sentences appear to disproportionately impact a particular segment of our population, it is important that the criminal defense attorneys representing such individuals vigorously fight for a fair trial. We cannot wait for legislators to act concerning sentencing guidelines. Attorneys must challenge arrests that appear to be racially motivated, challenge all evidence at trial, and do everything in their power to fight for their client’s rights.