Chart of the Day

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Despite an explosive growth in incarceration rates over the past four decades, federal drug-sentencing laws have, uh, failed to reduce drug use:

More stats from Pew:

The share of Americans age 12 and older who said in a national survey that they had used an illicit drug during the previous month increased from 6.7 percent in 1990 to 9.2 percent—or nearly 24 million people—in 2012. An increase in marijuana use helped drive this trend, more than offsetting a decline in cocaine use.

Today’s report concludes that tougher drug sentences “have not significantly changed long-term patterns of drug availability or use.” Public opinion is also increasingly turning against draconian punishments for drug use and other crimes, and Congress is poised to pass sentencing-reform legislation later this year.