The Business of Justice. How The Justice System Profits from The War on Drugs and A Hard-Line Approach To Law Enforcement

I heard a statistic today which real stood out for me, it was the fact that since Richard Nixon declared a national War on Drugs in 1971 the prison population in the United States has exploded. .

According to the statistics from the radio today, in 1971, 110 out of every 100,000 people in the United States were in jail. Now in 2016, there are 715 people in jail for every 100,000 people in the United States and the large majority of them are there specifically for drug related offenses.

In fact, according to, drug related offenses alone are responsible for 70% of the countries prison population.

Adding to the problem is the whole issue of austerity in our approach to law enforcement. Everyone seems to agree the problem is getting worse, but no one seems to agree as to the solution.

Earlier this year at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump called himself “the law and order candidate in this years election.” Later in the speech Trump went on to add how he intends to “strengthen the police and give them the resources they need to do their jobs.” Trump has also warned how he is going to expand upon the powers granted to local law enforcement to buy surplus military equipment from the US Department of Defense – also known as Program 1033 – overturning a recent ban on the program implemented by President Obama.

Perhaps the following statistic below is made more interesting due to who Trump is competing against in this years election, but strengthening the nations police has already been done recently – by Bill Clinton. In 1994 Bill Clinton signed an anti-crime bill into law which saw an increase in funding to the US Department of Justice and local police departments nationwide, the bill also hired 100,000 additional police officers and added them to the national police force.

What were the social ramifications of Clinton’s measures? As reported by The New York Times, “more than 2.2 million people are now behind bars, nearly double the number incarcerated when Mr Clinton took office. Although the United States makes up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it has more than 20 percent of its prison population.

As you can see, a strict approach to law enforcement has not necessarily had a beneficial impact on society and I think most young Americans would agree that police brutality, or at least the negative rhetoric surrounding police officers in 2016, is the worst we have ever seen in our lives.

This does not mean police officers themselves are at fault, they are just enforcing the laws of a much larger system. We are still following the Nixon administrations policy in regard to the “War on Drugs” and President Obama has for the large part remained silent on this issue in general. This is critically important for you to understand because police are members of the Executive Branch of Government at the bottom level. Do you know who else is a member of the Executive Branch at the very top? The President of The United States.

So, looking ahead to our next Presidential prospects, to the policy of Mr. Trump, there is no evidence that adding more officers into the national police force in 2017 will accomplish anything different than Bill Clinton in the 1994.

Trump’s political opponent in 2016, Hillary Clinton, has even apologized in front of a national television audience “for the unintended consequences” of her husbands Anti-Crime bill in 1994. Clinton will not end the War on Drugs or make cuts to the Justice System/police, she just wont expand upon their existing authority as Trump calls to do.

Clinton also differs from Trump in that she will uphold President Obama’s executive action to ban police from purchasing military equipment. Clinton has also hinted that she would de-schedule drugs such as marijuana.

Getting to Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party side of things, the LP as a whole calls for an end to the Drug War entirely and the full legalization of marijuana nationwide. As for why, please reference the following video.

Looking at the situation rationally, though it is perhaps not their intention or goal to do so, police and prisons do make a lot make money off people who get are arrested- in guaranteed funding from the tax payers. The more people get arrested, the more the justice system receives/makes/requires to pay for these prisoners.

There is prevalent logic which argues that part of the reason our failed War on Drugs hasn’t ended yet, or perhaps never will end, is because too many people would loose their jobs and to many other Government entities, such as the Justice Department, would also be losing a great deal of money if we ever did.  It may offend some people to hear, but the fact of the matter is that for each prisoner the police incarcerate, the more money the justice system makes/receives in funding.

Just think about it for a moment

From start to finish, it costs a lot of money to run someone through the justice system. Think about how many different buildings the justice department owns and operates, from prisons to file storage. Then think about how many employees are needed to keep these offices building operational, from secretaries to state funded defense attorneys to prison guards – each one of these employees also makes full and guaranteed benefits and health insurance. It costs a lot of money to maintain a system like that.

According to The Law Dictionary, it costs around 40,000$ , on average, for any state to keep one person in jail for a year in this country. This includes things like the cost to pay for prisoners food, clothing, water, electricity in the facilities, pay for all the guards/state employees including state benefits – et cetera. 

Ironically, and to give you some perspective of just how troubling this is, the average median income of the typical American worker living in society is $16,000s. This means that each person in American society can cloth, feed, bath and house themselves at a lower rate than the Justice Department can holding a person in 6×8 cages stacked on top of one another. That is the cost of our bureaucracy!

Even if the state is not running “for a profit” like a corporation would, they are essentially still running a business which hires a large number of employees and incurs great deal of expenses/overhead. All of which has to be paid for one way or the other.

According to, “The Department Of Justice Fiscal Year 2016 Budget totals $28.7 billion.” This “includes 118,001 positions (direct only). This staffing level is comprised of: Agents, Attorneys, Correctional Officers,Intelligence Analysts and Others.” An example of an indirect position would be the police officers who arrest people to give to the justice system to hold.

Also keep in mind that every single one of the Justice System’s employees make more than the average salary than the typical American, with full benefits to boot. It would cost a private business a lot of money to offer that and it cost the state/Government just as much to do the same. But if the Government is not “operating a business” here, where does the money come from to pay for it all?

Once again, for every prisoner the police give the justice system, the justice system gets $40k in guaranteed funding/revenue taken from the tax payers of that respective state. Even if the justice department is “not operating for a profit,” the more people they arrest, the more money gets pumped into and through the system. Perhaps unintentionally, it is to the Justice Systems direct benefit the more people they incarcerate.

Considering that a portion of the funds the Justice System receives for each prisoner goes towards paying Government employees, a great deal of people working for our Government benefit every-time someone is arrested in this country.

No automatic alt text available.

This article (The Business of Justice. How The Justice System Profits from The War on Drugs and A Hard-Line Approach To Law Enforcement) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article using a creative commons license with attribution to Brian Dunn and Alternative Medi4

Categories: Politics

%d bloggers like this: