Drugs and the Correctional System (Prisons, Jails, Probation and Parole)

1. Number Of People Serving Time For Drug, Violent, Property, and Other Offenses In US Prisons

"Offense characteristics of federal prisoners

"• Almost half of prisoners sentenced to federal prison were serving time for a drug offense (almost all for drug trafficking) on September 30, 2018, the most recent date for which data are available (tables 15 and 16).

"• About two-fifths of federal prisoners in 2018 were in prison for a public-order offense (39%, or 63,600), including 18% (28,800) for a weapons offense and 6% (9,200) for a convicted immigration offense.

"• Fewer than 1 in 10 federal prisoners (8%) were serving time for a violent offense on September 30, 2018.

"• About 10% of black, 7% of white, and 3% of Hispanic federal prisoners were serving time for a violent offense in 2018.

"• About 47% of white, 38% of black, and 35% of Hispanic federal prisoners were serving time for a public-order offense in 2018.

"• Almost 60% of Hispanic federal prisoners in 2018 were serving time for a drug offense (almost always for drug trafficking), and 17% were serving time for an adjudicated immigration offense."

State
"Offense characteristics of state prisoners

"• More than half (56%) of state prisoners sentenced to more than one year were serving a sentence for a violent offense at year-end 2017 (the most recent year for which data are available) (tables 13 and 14).

"• At year-end 2017, an estimated 14% of sentenced state prisoners were serving time for murder or non-negligent manslaughter (182,200), and another 13% were serving time for rape or sexual assault (167,000).

"• On December 31, 2017, about 14% of sentenced state prisoners had been convicted of a drug offense as their most serious crime (183,900).

"• Among sentenced state prisoners at year-end 2017, an estimated three-fifths of blacks and Hispanics (61% each) and nearly half of whites (48%) were serving time for a violent offense.

"• Among prisoners serving more than one year in state prison at year-end 2017, a larger proportion of blacks (17%) than Hispanics (15%) or whites (11%) were serving time for murder or non-negligent manslaughter.

"• Among sentenced prisoners serving in state prison at year-end 2017, a larger portion of whites (17%) than Hispanics (14%) or blacks (8%) were serving time for rape or sexual assault.

"• At year-end 2017, 57% of male and 38% of female sentenced state prisoners were serving a sentence for a violent offense."

E. Ann Carson, PhD. Prisoners In 2018. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, April 2020, NCJ253516.
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2. People Sentenced To State Prison For Drug Possession

The US Dept. of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that at yearend 2017 there were 1,273,674 people were serving sentences in state prisons in the US, of whom 183,900 (14.4% of the total) had as their most serious offence a drug charge: 46,800 for drug possession (3.7% of the total), and 137,100 for "other" drug offenses, including manufacturing and sale (10.8% of the total).

E. Ann Carson, PhD. Prisoners In 2018. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, April 2020, NCJ253516.
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3. People in Federal Prisons For Whom Drug Possession is the Most Serious Offense

The US Dept. of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that on Sept. 30, 2012, there were a total of 187,773 people sentenced and serving time in US federal prison for any offense. Of those, 97,214 people (51.8% of the total) had as their most serious charge a drug offense: 96,907 of them for drug trafficking or manufacture (51.6% of the total), 296 for drug possession (0.16% of the total), and 11 for "other"* drug offenses.

(* "Other" includes investing illegal drug profits, operating a commercial carrier under the influence, and drug offenses that involve using the U.S. Postal Service.)

Sam Taxy, Julie Samuels, and William Adams, Urban Institute. “Drug Offenders in Federal Prison: Estimates of Characteristics Based on Linked Data.” NCJ248648. US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics: Washington, DC, Oct. 2015, p. 8, Table 8.
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4. Total Number of People On Probation For Drug Offenses In The US

Of the 3,789,800 adults on probation in the US at the end of 2015, 25% (approximately 947,450 people) had a drug charge as their most serious offense.

Danielle Kaeble and Thomas P. Bonczar, "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2015" (Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2016), NCJ250230, Table 1, p. 3, and Table 4, p. 5.
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5. Total Number of People On Parole For Drug Offenses In The US, 2015

Of the 870,500 people on parole in the US at the end of 2015, 31% (approximately 269,855 people) had a drug charge as their most serious offense.

Danielle Kaeble and Thomas P. Bonczar, "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2015" (Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2016), NCJ250230, Table 1, p. 3, and Table 6, p. 7.
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6. Offense Characteristics of People Serving Time In State Prisons in the US, by Race, Ethnicity, and Gender

"• Violent offenders made up (55%) of all sentenced state prisoners at year-end 2018 (the most recent year for which such data are available) (tables 13 and 14).

"• An estimated 14% of sentenced state prisoners were serving time for murder or non-negligent manslaughter (177,700), and another 13% were serving time for rape or sexual assault (162,700) on December 31, 2018.

"• At year-end 2018, more than half of sentenced males (58%) and more than a third of sentenced females (38%) were serving time in state prison for a violent offense.

"• About 16% of sentenced state prisoners were serving time for a property offense (199,700), and 14% were serving time for a drug offense (176,300) at the end of 2018.

"• A larger percentage of female state prisoners were serving sentences for drug (26%) or property (24%) offenses than males (13% drugs, 16% property) at yearend 2018.

"• Among sentenced state prisoners at year-end 2018, a larger percentage of black (62%) and Hispanic (62%) prisoners than white prisoners (48%) were serving time for a violent offense.

"• Nineteen percent of Hispanics in state prison at yearend 2018 had been sentenced for murder or nonnegligent manslaughter, compared to 17% of black prisoners and 11% of white prisoners.

"• At year-end 2018, about 40% of sentenced prisoners serving time for rape or sexual assault were white (65,600 prisoners), while 22% were Hispanic (35,000) and 21% were black (34,800)."

E. Ann Carson, PhD. Prisoners In 2019. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, October 2020, NCJ255155.
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7. Number of People in Jail or State Prisons Who Report Committing Crime to Get Money for Drugs

"About 21% each of state prisoners and sentenced jail inmates said their most serious current offense was committed to get money for drugs or to obtain drugs (table 7). A larger percentage of prisoners (39%) and jail inmates (37%) held for property offenses said they committed the crime for money for drugs or drugs than other offense types. Nearly a third of drug offenders (30% of state prisoners and 29% of jail inmates) said they committed the offense to get drugs or money for drugs. Approximately 1 in 6 state prisoners (15%) and jail inmates (14%) who committed violent offenses said they did so to get money for drugs or to obtain drugs."

Jennifer Bronson, PhD, Jessica Stroop, Stephanie Zimmer, and Marcus Berzofsky, PhD, "Drug Use, Dependence, and Abuse Among State Prisoners and Jail Inmates, 2007-2009" (Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2017), NCJ250546, p. 1.
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8. Past-Month Drug Use By Adults On Parole In The US, 2015

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that there were 870,500 people in the US aged 18 and over on parole at yearend 2015. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 31.1 percent of people on parole had used an illicit drug in the past month. An estimated 21.2 percent of those on probation were past-month users of marijuana. An estimated 20.4 percent of people on parole in 2015 were reportedly past-month users of any illicit drug other than marijuana. An estimated 10.7 percent of people on parole in 2015 were past-month users of illegal pain relievers.

Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD, p. 1967, Table 6.103B.
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Danielle Kaeble and Thomas P. Bonczar, "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2015" (Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2016), NCJ250230, p. 1.
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9. Number of People Serving Time in Federal Prison in the US, by Offense

"• Forty-seven percent (81,900) of sentenced federal prisoners on September 30, 2016 (the most recent date for which federal offense data are available) were serving time for a drug offense (table 14; table 15).
"• More than a third (38% or 65,900 prisoners) of federal prisoners were imprisoned for a public order offense, including 17% (28,800 federal prisoners) for a weapons offense and 8% (13,300) for an adjudicated immigration offense.
"• More than half (56% or 6,300) of female federal prisoners were serving sentences for a drug offense, compared to 47% of males (75,600).
"• A larger proportion of white offenders in federal prison (45%) were serving time for a public order offense on September 30, 2016, than blacks (34%) or Hispanics (38%).
"• More than half (57%) of Hispanic federal prisoners in 2016 were convicted of a drug offense, and nearly a quarter (23%) were serving time for an adjudicated immigration offense."

E. Ann Carson, PhD. Prisoners In 2016. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, January 2018, NCJ251149, p. 13.
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10. Forty Percent of People in Prison and Jail Report Using Drugs at the Time of Their Offense

"During 2007-09, about 4 in 10 state prisoners (42%) and sentenced jail inmates (37%) said they used drugs at the time of the offense for which they were currently incarcerated (table 6). Among prisoners, 22% reported marijuana/hashish use at time of the offense, 16% reported cocaine/crack use, 11% reported stimulant use, and 7% reported heroin/opiate use. Among sentenced jail inmates, 19% reported using marijuana/hashish at time of the offense, 13% reported cocaine/crack use, and 8% reported stimulant and heroin/opiate use."

Jennifer Bronson, PhD, Jessica Stroop, Stephanie Zimmer, and Marcus Berzofsky, PhD, "Drug Use, Dependence, and Abuse Among State Prisoners and Jail Inmates, 2007-2009" (Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2017), NCJ250546, p. 1.
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11. Drug Use by Adults on Probation in the US, 2015

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were a total of 3,789,800 people aged 18 and over in the US who were on probation at yearend 2015. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 31.6 percent of that population were past-month users of any illicit drug. Past-month use of marijuana was reported by 23.8 percent of people on probation. Past-month use of illicit drugs other than marijuana was reported by an estimated 16.9 percent of people on probation. Past-month illegal use of pain relievers was reported by an estimated 8.3 percent of people on probation in 2015.

Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD, p. 1957, Table 6.98B.
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Danielle Kaeble and Thomas P. Bonczar, "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2015" (Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2016), NCJ250230, p. 1.
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12. No Relationship Between Drug Imprisonment Rates and States' Drug Problems

"One primary reason for sentencing an offender to prison is deterrence—conveying the message that losing one’s freedom is not worth whatever one gains from committing a crime. If imprisonment were an effective deterrent to drug use and crime, then, all other things being equal, the extent to which a state sends drug offenders to prison should be correlated with certain drug-related problems in that state. The theory of deterrence would suggest, for instance, that states with higher rates of drug imprisonment would experience lower rates of drug use among their residents.

"To test this, Pew compared state drug imprisonment rates with three important measures of drug problems — self-reported drug use (excluding marijuana), drug arrest, and overdose death — and found no statistically significant relationship between drug imprisonment and these indicators. In other words, higher rates of drug imprisonment did not translate into lower rates of drug use, arrests, or overdose deaths.

"State pairings offer illustrative examples. For instance, Tennessee imprisons drug offenders at more than three times the rate of New Jersey, but the states’ rates of self-reported drug use are virtually the same. (See Figure 3.) Conversely, Indiana and Iowa have nearly identical rates of drug imprisonment, but Indiana ranks 27th among states in self-reported drug use and 18th in overdose deaths compared with 44th and 47th, respectively, for Iowa.

"The results hold even when controlling for standard demographic variables, including the percentage of the population with bachelor’s degrees, the unemployment rate, the percentage of the population that is nonwhite, and median household income."

More Imprisonment Does Not Reduce State Drug Problems: Data show no relationship between prison terms and drug misuse. The Pew Charitable Trusts. March 2018, pp. 5-6.
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13. Incarceration Not Effective At Reducing Drug Use Or Related Problems

"Although no amount of policy analysis can resolve disagreements about how much punishment drug offenses deserve, research does make clear that some strategies for reducing drug use and crime are more effective than others and that imprisonment ranks near the bottom of that list. And surveys have found strong public support for changing how states and the federal government respond to drug crimes.

"Putting more drug-law violators behind bars for longer periods of time has generated enormous costs for taxpayers, but it has not yielded a convincing public safety return on those investments. Instead, more imprisonment for drug offenders has meant limited funds are siphoned away from programs, practices, and policies that have been proved to reduce drug use and crime."

More Imprisonment Does Not Reduce State Drug Problems: Data show no relationship between prison terms and drug misuse. The Pew Charitable Trusts. March 2018, p. 11.
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14. Cost Effectiveness of Prison Compared With Treatment

"Substance-involved people have come to compose a large portion of the prison population. Substance use may play a role in the commission of certain crimes: approximately 16 percent of people in state prison and 18 percent of people in federal prison reported committing their crimes to obtain money for drugs.21 Treatment delivered in the community is one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent such crimes and costs approximately $20,000 less than incarceration per person per year.22 A study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy found that every dollar spent on drug treatment in the community yields over $18 in cost savings related to crime.23 In comparison, prisons only yield $.37 in public safety benefit per dollar spent. Releasing people to supervision and making treatment accessible is an effective way of reducing problematic drug use, reducing crime associated with drug use and reducing the number of people in prison."

Justice Policy Institute, "How to safely reduce prison populations and support people returning to their communities," (Washington, DC: June 2010), p. 8.
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15. US Prisons and Drug Offenses

"The United States leads the world in the number of people incarcerated in federal and state correctional facilities. There are currently more than 2 million people in American prisons or jails. Approximately one-quarter of those people held in U.S. prisons or jails have been convicted of a drug offense. The United States incarcerates more people for drug offenses than any other country. With an estimated 6.8 million Americans struggling with drug abuse or dependence, the growth of the prison population continues to be driven largely by incarceration for drug offenses."

Justice Policy Institute, "Substance Abuse Treatment and Public Safety," (Washington, DC: January 2008), p. 1.
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16. Parents in Prison, by Offense

"Among male state prisoners, violent (47%) and property (48%) offenders were less likely to report having children than public-order (60%) and drug (59%) offenders (table 6). For women held in state prison, violent (57%) offenders were less likely than drug (63%), property (65%), and public-order (65%) offenders to be a mother.
"The prevalence of being a parent differed by gender and offense for inmates held in state and federal prisons. For state inmates, female (65%) property offenders were more likely to be a parent than male (48%) property offenders. In federal prison, male (69%) drug offenders were more likely than female (55%) drug offenders to report having children.
"Among men held in federal prison, drug offenders (69%) were more likely than property (54%) and violent (50%) offenders to report having children (appendix table 5). Public-order offenders (62%) were also more likely than violent offenders to report having children. For women in federal prison, the likelihood of being a mother did not differ by offense."

Glaze, Lauren E. and Maruschak, Laura M., "Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children" (Washington, DC: USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jan. 2009), NCJ222984, p. 4.
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17. People in Prison with Drug Addiction or Dependence

"Violent offenders (47%) were the only offender group in State prisons with less than half meeting the DSM-IV criteria for drug dependence or abuse. Property and drug offenders (63% of each) were the most likely to be drug dependent or abusing.
"Drug offenders (52%) were the only group of Federal inmates with at least half meeting the drug dependence or abuse criteria. Property offenders (27%) reported the lowest percentage of drug dependence or abuse."

Mumola, Christopher J., and Karberg, Jennifer C., "Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004," (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, Oct. 2006) (NCJ213530), p. 7.
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18. Parents in Prison

"Mothers in state prison (58%) were more likely than fathers (49%) to report having a family member who had also been incarcerated (table 11). Parents in state prison most commonly reported a brother (34%), followed by a father (19%). Among mothers in state prison, 13% reported a sister and 8% reported a spouse. Six percent of fathers reported having a sister who had also been incarcerated; 2%, a spouse.
"While growing up, 40% of parents in state prison reported living in a household that received public assistance, 14% reported living in a foster home, agency, or institution at some time during their youth, and 43% reported living with both parents most of the time (appendix table 11). Mothers (17%) held in state prison were more likely than fathers (14%) to report living in a foster home, agency, or institution at some time during their youth. Parents in federal prison reported lower percentages of growing up in a household that received public assistance (31%) or living in a foster home, agency, or institution (7%). These characteristics varied little by gender for parents held in federal prison.
"More than a third (34%) of parents in state prison reported that during their youth, their parents or guardians had abused alcohol or drugs. Mothers in state prison (43%) were more likely than fathers (33%) to have had this experience. Fewer parents (27%) in federal prison reported having a parent or a guardian who had abused alcohol or drugs."

Glaze, Lauren E. and Maruschak, Laura M., "Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children" (Washington, DC: USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jan. 2009), NCJ222984, p. 7.
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19. Number of Prisoners Who Report Having Committing Crime to Get Money for Drugs

"17% of State and 18% of Federal prisoners committed their crime to obtain money for drugs."

Mumola, Christopher J., and Karberg, Jennifer C., "Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004," (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, Oct. 2006) (NCJ213530), p. 1.
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20. Increasing Costs of Overcrowding

"The increases in drug imprisonment, the decrease in releases from prison, and the re-incarceration for technical parole violations are leading to significant overcrowding and contribute to the growing costs of prisons. Prisons are stretched beyond capacity, creating dangerous and unconstitutional conditions which often result in costly lawsuits. In 2006, 40 out of 50 states were at 90 percent capacity or more, with 23 of those states operating at over 100 percent capacity."

Justice Policy Institute, "Pruning Prisons: How Cutting Corrections Can Save Money and Protect Public Safety," (Washington, DC: May 2009), pp. 7-8.
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