National Criminal Justice Reference Service Cooking the Books?

Forward from a friend of RR:

Hi folks,
Bad news, I mean in more ways than one.
I subscribe to a few email updates from various information bureaus of the Justice Department. The Bureau of Justice Statistics and a few others. the information they put out was surprisingly objective. However just this week I got an email from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service that has "Prisoners and Pot: Debunking the Myth" as the subject line. Back when Ashcroft first got in he talked about the various information outlets of the DOJ "Speaking with one voice" preumably to better reflect the policies of the DOJ itself. I knew it was coming I haven't seen evidence of it until now. This recent report, that is announced in the email is a clear attempt to discredit some of the rhetoric used by critics of the drug war, basically by saying that only a tiny number of prisoners are in jail for pot. I haven't looked at it closely but it's got to be bullshit. The real unfortunate thing now is that what once was reliable source of information about the Prison Industrial Complex is now turning into a propaganda machine.

The text of the email I got follows:

The Office of National Drug Control Policy announces the release of a publication that debunks the myth that America?s prisons are filled with low-level, nonviolent marijuana users.

Pro-drug advocates actively spread misinformation about the number of people in prison for marijuana, and their claims are widely accepted as conventional wisdom. But they are lies.

'Who's Really in Prison for Marijuana' uses the most reliable state and Federal data to show that the number of inmates imprisoned solely for marijuana offenses is actually quite low, and only a fraction of that number are first-time offenders. The vast majority of drug prisoners, in fact, are traffickers, violent criminals, repeat offenders, or various combinations of these types.

According to the most recent available data:

-- Just 1.6 percent of the state inmate population were held for offenses involving marijuana only;
-- Less than 1 percent (0.7 percent) of state prisoners were incarcerated with marijuana possession as the only charge; and
-- Only 0.3 percent of all state prisoners convicted for marijuana possession and no other crimes were first-time offenders.

The numbers on the Federal level reflect a similar trend. Of all drug defendants sentenced in Federal courts for marijuana crimes in 2001, the overwhelming majority were convicted for trafficking.

The report is available online at the ONDCP Web site at

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