Last login: Friday, October 8, 2010
This is a very misleading use of statistics. The author states that the percentage of state prison population in for marijuana charges alone is 1%. Her next paragraph is this: "They also make up a small portion of the county jails populations in the state's three largest counties." And how does that break down for two of those three (she doesn't give stats for the third)? 200 primarily pot arrestees out of a total jail population of 4300 for San Diego, and 80/16000 for L.A. What are these in terms of percentages, rounded up to the nearest whole number? San Diego= 5%, L.A.= 0.5%.
First of all, that's a huge difference, and averaging such widely divergent numbers as these is as meaningless as saying that in a neighborhood where nine households earn $20,000 and one earns $2,000,000, the average household income is $118,000! If averaging doesn't give you an idea of what's typical, then another method of analysis should be used.
Secondly, the author has simply dismissed the difference between the state's pot incarceration percentage (she says it's <1%) and that of San Diego County's jails, which is close to 5%. Sure, 1% sounds pretty insignificant ... but is 5% also insignificant? You be the judge.
I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and say that this reporting is just the result of a general innumeracy in our society, and not an intentional effort to manipulate the facts.
KPBS: You may want to start running stats past one of the statisticians on campus before you just start tossing numbers around in your stories.
October 8, 2010 at 9:10 a.m.
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