As broke states try to shed nonviolent inmates, the federal detention machine looks to expand.
President Obama's budget request for fiscal year 2013 includes cuts to everything from Medicare and Medicaid to Defense and even Homeland Security. But federal prisons are among its "biggest winners," according to an analysis by the Federal Times. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is seeking a 4.2 percent increase, one of the largest of any federal agency, which would bring its total budget to more than $6.9 billion.
So what kind of criminals are we spending all this money to incarcerate? If you're thinking terrorists and kidnappers, think again. According to the Sentencing Project, only 1 in 10 federal prisoners is locked up for a violent offense of any kind. More than half are drug offenders—hardly surprising, since federal prosecutions for drug offenses more than doubled between 1984 and 2005. The 1980s also produced mandatory minimum sentences, which meant we were not only sending more people to prison, we were keeping them there far longer—a perfect formula for an exploding prison population.