Between 1980 and 2012, the federal prison population in America grew by close to 800 percent. Over half of the 200,000 federal prisoners are there for drug crimes, and most of the crimes were related to drug trafficking. Furthermore, 35 percent of those convicted of a drug crime and sent to prison had never committed a major crime or had previously spent time in prison.

While the trend in previous decades was to impose mandatory minimum sentences, the Justice Department is implementing reforms that allow judges leeway in sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentencing requirements have been cited as a factor in the growing prison population. However, prison reform advocates say that it doesn’t address other factors that could help further reduce the prison population throughout the country.

Crack cocaine was the drug most commonly trafficked by those currently in federal prison, accounting for 28.4 percent of all cases. Powder cocaine was the second-most commonly trafficked drug accounting for 25.8 percent of trafficking cases. When broken down by demographic, most serving time for a drug crime are males, and 76 percent are men of color. Roughly one-quarter of those serving time for a drug conviction in federal prison are not citizens of the United States.

An individual who has been charged with a drug crime may wish to talk to an attorney about creating a defense to the charge. It may be possible to argue that an individual was in possession of a controlled substance that was being used for medical purposes. An attorney may also argue that an individual had no intent to sell or traffic any drug that was in his or her possession. This could result in a plea agreement that may enable an individual to avoid some or all penalties related to the drug charge.