By Scotty Reid
It is estimated that 50% of all prisoners in US prisons have been convicted on non-violent drug offenses. If this holds true for the veteran population in prison, we estimate that at least 500,000 veterans are incarcerated over non-violent drug offenses.
The average annual cost to incarcerate one inmate is $31,307, but this can vary widely from state to state. In New York for instance, it costs between $50,000 and $60,000. In some states it is upwards of $100,000.
If we take the average cost of incarcerating a prisoner and multiply it by 500,000, US taxpayers are spending an estimated $15,653,500,000.00 billion dollars per year to incarcerate veterans over non-violent drug offenses.
Last night during the GOP Presidential debates candidates were asked how they would cut US debt. Not a single candidate mentioned reducing the debt associated with the world’s largest prison population. Not a single Democrat has discussed debt reduction related to prison incarceration in their debates. Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill in Congress to abolish private prisons and jails, an industry whose lobbyist push for harsh criminal justice policies and certainly if passed would save taxpayers billions of dollars.
Sanders also wants to end marijuana prohibition and has called for the removal of cannabis from the federal government’s schedule list of drugs. He has introduced a bill called “The Ending Federal Prohibition on Marijuana Act of 2015.” Many veterans use cannabis to treat their PTSD so removing it from the scheduled list could go a long way in preventing veterans from being charged with possession and incarcerated.
In contrast to what US taxpayers spend on incarceration per inmate, the US taxpayer only spends on average $6,088.00 per veteran for Veteran Benefits. Perhaps if the US spent on average $31,307 on Veterans Benefits per veteran, it is plausible to believe many of the veterans would not be in prison.
So on this Veterans Day, instead of consigning on to a social media post by a politician “thanking vets for serving”, inform them on how many veterans return from numerous wars and end up serving a prison sentence because of failed US drug war policies.
Happy Veterans Day!
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