It is often hard to find reliable evidence on the numbers of people serving prison time for non-violent drug convictions in the U.S. and in Wisconsin. This is partly true due to the fragmented nature of the prison system.

State and federal prisons, juvenile correction centers, local jails and Indian county jails make up the bulk of incarcerations in the U.S.

Drug crime incarcerations in the U.S.

The Prison Policy Initiative looked at the number of people locked up in the U.S. and at the reasons for the imprisonment, including for drug crimes. The data from the study shows that about 20% of incarcerations occur from drug crimes. Around 450,000 people go to jail or prison on any given day, though many from this number, especially in local jails, have yet to receive a conviction. Police make about one million drug arrests each year, with many of these arrests resulting in prison or jail time. Many factors make the situation difficult to quantify. One example is people convicted of multiple crimes only show up in records for the most serious crime.

Prison statistics for Wisconsin

The Prison Policy Initiative also looked at incarcerations for each state, including Wisconsin, though it did not report on drug crimes. Insights from the 2020 report included the following information:

  • Wisconsin had an incarceration rate just below the U.S.
  • About 41,000 residents served jail time in 2018
  • Blacks received jail time at a higher percentage than other ethnic groups
  • About 105,000 Wisconsin residents served jail time or experienced criminal justice supervision

The report gave Wisconsin an F minus on its parole release program. Fifteen other states also received an F minus, the lowest grade given.