Doing violence to prison statistics

November 15, 2017 § 7 Comments

Cane Caldo recently objected to my contention that violence is the besetting sin of incontinent men, citing federal prison statistics.  One problem with citing federal prison statistics — even stipulating the veracity of official methods which categorize various crimes proximate to violence (e.g. burglary) as as nonviolent — is that the federal prison population is not representative of the prison population in general:

Obama made this a key point in his NAACP speech: “But here’s the thing: Over the last few decades, we’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before. And that is the real reason our prison population is so high.”

This claim, which is widely accepted by policymakers and the public, is simply wrong. It’s true that nearly half of all federal inmates have been sentenced for drug offenses, but the federal system holds only about 14 percent of all inmates. In the state prisons, which hold the remaining 86 percent, over half of prisoners are serving time for violent crimes, and since 1990, 60 percent of the growth in state prison populations has come from locking up violent offenders. Less than a fifth of state prisoners — 17 percent — are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.

In other words, for all the talk about nonviolent offenders, a majority of our prisoners have been convicted of a violent act, and even more have some history of violence.

(Emphasis mine)

§ 7 Responses to Doing violence to prison statistics

  • TomD says:

    You also can look at how prisoners are “sorted” by the system – which crimes are prosecuted on a federal level, and which on a state level.

    Given the number of murderers in the state max prisons I know of, they’re more likely to be there.

  • djz242013 says:

    Stuff like this is why all statistics on the internet are fraudulent. There’s always something left out, or something wrong, or something misleading.

    Bill Burr has a joke about this: “Just go to and get a bunch of statistics supporting your point of view.”

  • […] [Eds. note: After I started writing this post, Cane Caldo also addressed this same topic, and since then, Zippy has offered a rebuttal.] […]

  • Mike T says:

    There is a federal murder statute that could apply broadly, but my guess is that there is no stomach for pushing the states via the oft abused interstate commerce clause because that would open a hornet’s nest even if the courts agreed due to it carrying the death penalty no matter what the states want.

    It’s also important to remember that federal law enforcement can enforce state and local laws the same as local and state police, but being law enforcement they have to turn the person over to the appropriate holding and prosecuting authorities (like locals have to turn over to the state). So if you shoot your wife and a FBI agent lives next door, you better run because he is every bit as empowered to arrest and charge you as a sheriff’s deputy or state trooper. He just has to turn you over to the county jail and notify the DA’s office.

  • Hey Zippy, this just in from the new series, “Adventures of the Usurers.”

    “As debt levels rise, creditors are taking increasingly tough actions to chase people who fall behind on student loans. Going after professional licenses stands out as especially punitive.

    Firefighters, nurses, teachers, lawyers, massage therapists, barbers, psychologists, and real estate brokers have all had their credentials suspended or revoked.”

  • TomD says:

    If you’re going to sell yourself to a usurer, don’t sell yourself to the government one.

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