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A Matter of Fact

New York City jails have an average daily population of 20,000. Cigarettes sell for $2.36 a pack, and city jails sell about 8,000 packs per day (not counting weekends) for a total of nearly $5 million in annual cigarette sales. A proposed ban on smoking in NY City jails was rescinded after guard union representatives warned of a "potential blood bath" if cigarette sales were eliminated.

More than 130,000 people a year spend time in NY City's Rikers Island Jail; 92 percent are black or hispanic, 90 percent have no high school degree, and 26 percent of the women and 16 percent of the men are HIV positive.

As of July 1996, the United Nations estimates that there are 21.8 million HIV infected adults and children in the world, 780,000 in North America.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is transferring HIV positive prisoners from all over the state to the Stiles Unit prison near Galveston. By the end of 1996 there were an estimated 700 HIV positive prisoners there. HIV tests are voluntary in Texas prisons. According to TDCJ statistics, about one in six Texas prisoners are tested for HIV each year.

Texas has 38 of the 124 private jails open (or expected to open in 1996) in the U.S. and 23,008 of the nation's 74,003 private prison beds. Florida is a distant second with 5,900 private prison beds.

According to a 1996 Florida legislative report, applicants for guard jobs in the FL DOC must have a high school diploma or equivalent and must complete a basic training program and pass an examination. Those who fail to meet the training or exam criteria can nonetheless be hired for up to 180 days on "trainee status." Approximately 56 percent of the 7,682 guards hired by the FL DOC in 1994-95 were hired on "trainee status."

According to the Criminal Justice Institute of Salem, NY, there were 253 prison escapes in Florida in 1995, 24 in Texas, 16 in Michigan and 8 in New York. Figures for other states were not mentioned in the report.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice operates a license tag plant at the Wynne Unit prison near Huntsville. In 1996 the tag plant churned out a record volume of more than 7 million license plates and 100 million vinyl license stickers. Total sales were $8.5 million with gross profits of $2.3 million. Total wages paid to prisoners working in the plant? Zero.

Florida's prison industry (known as PRIDE) utilizes the labor of 4,648 prisoners (1995 figure) in 21 prisons making 3,000 different products with annual sales of more than $85 million. Among the items produced: "bad guy" targets for police shooting ranges, police car decals, police uniforms, and converting old trucks into state-of-the-art SWAT team vehicles.

The 1997 federal budget approved by congress allocates $16.4 billion for the Department of Justice (DOJ), a 12 percent boost (about $1.8 billion) more than 1996. That is four times what the DOJ received a decade ago. The DEA will get $1 billion, up $192.1 million over 1996. The FBI's funding rose 13.4 percent to $2.8 billion.

Marijuana is the largest cash crop in ten states, and the second largest cash crop in the nation, second only to corn.

According to the BJS Report "Felony Sentences in State Courts, 1994," drug offenders made up almost a third of the 872,000 felons convicted in state courts during 1994. About 48 percent of state convicted drug felons were sent to state prisons, 23 percent were sent to jail and 29 percent were given probation. People in their twenties comprised about 20 percent of the adult population in the U.S. but 43 percent of state convicted felons.

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