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Baltimore jails house highest proportion of population in the nation


© 2010 – Commentary

According to recent research by the Justice Policy Institute, the city of Baltimore has the highest percentage of the area’s population in jail when compared to almost 20 other facilities in the country.

One interesting part of the study revealed that most inmates in Baltimore are incarcerated for drug, property, or technical offenses.

In other words, immense amounts of taxpayer dollars are wasted to imprison those who violated drug laws – roughly 28% of the prison population. This is an incredible amount of public money that is squandered.

In 2011 the state of Maryland will spend $97 million on the Baltimore City Detention Center and an additional $53.6 million will be spent on Central Booking.

Imagine if drugs were decriminalized (or even legalized) and 28% of that money was used on something more useful.  Schools could improve, roads could be repaired, etc.

Now I think drugs are plagues upon society, but so is alcoholism and single motherhood. Every vice in Baltimore (and Maryland) shouldn’t be punished with jail time.

If people want to smoke marijuana until they go numb or snort enough cocaine that they see stars, then fine – go nuts.

Just don’t waste millions of Marylanders’ tax dollars to imprison such people (and more money for their “treatment”).

The drug laws in Maryland need to be rethought. For example, marijuana is illegal yet alcohol and nicotine – which are much more physically harmful and addicting – are legal. Accordingly, recent research shows that smoking marijuana doesn’t impair driving ability, yet alcohol obviously does and kills many people each year. This makes no sense.

Maryland politicians need to realize that every vice cannot corrected by imprisonment.

Taxpayer funds in Maryland can be saved (and prison populations can decrease) if the drug laws are changed. This can be done if politicians stop legislating with emotion and instead start drafting laws based on reason.

National jail population is down 2.3 percent

For more headlines: See below.

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  • Baltimoron 4 years ago

    You mention the cost of incarceration, but that's just the beginning. Prosecutors, public defenders, police, etc.

    Think about it. During prohibition, the violence surrounding the illegal alcohol trade was astounding. Although violence in this town is more a symptom of societal decay than anything else, so much of it revolves around the drug trade.

    Decriminalize drugs, and watch crime fall.