Drugs And Its Offenders Essay

2031 words - 8 pages

The United States has the world's highest incarceration rate. With five percent of the world's population, our country houses nearly twenty-five percent of the world's reported prisoners. Currently there are approximately two million people in American prisons or jails. Since 1984 the prison population for drug offenders has risen from ten percent to now over thirty percent of the total prison population. Federal prisons were estimated to hold 179,204 sentenced inmates in 2007; 95,446 for drug offenses. State prisons held a total of 1,296,700 inmates in 2005; 253,300 for drug offenses. Sixty percent of the drug offenders in prisons are nonviolent and were purely in prison because of drug offenses (Drug War Facts). The question then arises, is locking up drug offenders really efficient for society? I will use an economic approach to explain why nonviolent drug offenders should not be in prison and what can be done to lessen the crime that is associated with the drug trade.
Many people argue that drugs cause violence and there is evidence that shows a positive correlation between drug use and violent and property crime (Miller and Levitt). However, one can argue that it is not the drugs that are causing the correlation, but the fact that they are illegal. Making something illegal raises the price of obtaining that good. This extra price includes the cost of consuming the information concerning where to buy the drugs; transaction costs (time, trouble, risk) necessary to make the purchase, and then the drugs themselves. These are much more expensive than they would be if they were legal. Refer to the graph below. Making drug use illegal causes both the supply (S1) and the demand (D1) schedule to shift to the left. When the supply schedule shifts to the left (S2), it causes the price to rise (Ps) and quantity to fall (Qs). When the demand schedule shifts to the left (D2) it causes the quantity to fall (Qd) and the price to fall (Pd). Thus, no matter what quantity (usage of drugs) will go down (Q2). The direction in which the price moves depends on which shift is larger. It has been shown that price will most likely go up; the reason for this is because law enforcement often goes after the suppliers with more effort than they go after the buyers because it has a greater deterrent effect because it is harder to sell than buy (Hellman and Alper). Also the punishments for sellers are much worse than for buyers. Therefore, the leftward shift of the supply schedule (S2), caused by the decrease in supply, is much larger than the shift in the demand schedule (D2); this causes a larger decrease in supply than in demand (area between S1 and S2 is larger) which then causes the increase in price from P1 to P2 (Graph A) (Miller). The increase in helps explain why drug offenders commit more property crime when drugs are illegal. Most property crimes are committed for financial motives; it is then safe to assume that drug offenders steal the property for money to...

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