For Immediate Release
November 26, 2001
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
Whenever the subject of allocating prison space and resources arise, there is inevitably a statement made to the effect that Florida should stop using costly prison space to incarcerate offenders for "minor" drug crimes, such as marijuana use. Are thousands of harmless marijuana users taking up valuable prison beds that could be used by more violent offenders?
A joint study by the Florida Department of Corrections' Bureau of Research and Data Analysis and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Statistical Analysis Center indicates that these offenders are neither harmless nor numerous. In fact, on May 31, 2001, there were only 93 (or 0.1%) inmates in the Florida prison system serving time for marijuana possession, and 42 percent of them (39) had previous arrests for violent offenses including murder, sexual battery, robbery or aggravated assault. These inmates had an average of 19 previous arrests and nine convictions. This average inmate has also been on community supervision such as probation an average of two times before being incarcerated. On average, he is male, black and 31 years old.
The records reviewed during this study include only Florida state prison convictions, so the arrests and convictions could be much higher when county jails and other states are included. Also, these figures do not include juvenile records.
The 93 inmates in Florida prison on May 31, 2001 for marijuana possession had the following characteristics:
Are harmless marijuana smokers taking up a lot of valuable prison beds? This study indicates that there are very few inmates serving time in prison today for marijuana possession (0.1%), and those who are in prison are far from harmless. They have extensive criminal records and typically have been provided the opportunity to avoid prison through multiple supervision sentences. Notably, many of their previous convictions include violent offenses, and more than a third had arrests for firearm-related crimes.
It is important to note that the above analysis does not include the following information about the inmates studied:
For more information, call Dr. Bill Bales at the DOC's Bureau of Research and Data Analysis at (850) 488-1801 or FDLE's Statistical Analysis Center at (850) 410-7140.