Substance Abuse Among Prisoners

Substance Abuse Among Prisoners

Bureau of Justice Statistics

"Substance Abuse Among Prisoners" by Bureau of Justice Statistics. Alaska Justice Forum 15(4): 2-3 (Winter 1999). Over 570,000 of the nation's prisoners (51%) reported the use of alcohol or drugs while committing their offense, according to the 1997 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities. Based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics report "Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisons, 1997", NCJ-172871.

In the 1997 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, over 570,000 of the nation's prisoners (51%) reported the use of alcohol or drugs while committing their offense.

Among state prisoners the incidence of alcohol or drug use at the time of offense showed little variation by offense type, ranging from 52 per cent of violent offenders to 56 per cent of public-order offenders. Among specific offense types only weapons (42%), fraud (43%), and sexual assault (45%) offenders had a minority reporting the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their offense.

Among federal prisoners the reported use of alcohol or drugs at the time of offense showed greater variation by offense type. Violent offenders (40%) reported the highest levels, followed by drug (35%), public-order (30%), and property (23%) offenders. Among specific offense types only murder (52%) and assault (51%) offenders had a majority reporting the use of alcohol or drugs at the time of their current offense. Fraud (15%) and sexual assault (32%) offenders were among the federal prisoners least likely to have committed their current offense under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A third of state and a fifth of federal prisoners reported the influence of alcohol only at the time of offense. For both state and federal prisoners, the specific offenses most closely related to alcohol use at the time of offense were violent ones—assault, murder, manslaughter, and sexual assault.

A third of state prisoners said they had committed their current offense while under the influence of drugs. Drug (42%) and property offenders (37%) reported the highest incidence of drug use at the time of offense, followed by violent (29%) and public-order offenders (23%).

About 1 in 5 federal prisoners committed their offense under the influence of drugs. Murder (29%) and robbery (28%) offenders were the federal prisoners most likely to report drug influence.

Table 1. Alcohol or Drug Use at Time of Offense of State and Federal Prisoners, by Type of Offense, 1997
Table 2. Experiences While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs Reported by State and Federal Prisoners, 1997

Over 360,000 prisoners—a third of state, and about a quarter of federal prisoners—said they had participated in drug or alcohol treatment or other substance abuse programs since admission. Fourteen per cent of both state and federal prisoners drinking at the time of offense had been treated for alcohol abuse since admission to prison. A third had enrolled in other alcohol abuse programs, such as self-help groups.

Reported levels of drug treatment since admission were lower for both state (10%) and federal (9%) prisoners than those reported in 1991 (25% and 16%, respectively). Over the same period, participation in other drug abuse programs increased for both state (from 16% to 20%) and federal prisoners (from 10% to 20%).

Table 3. Substance Abuse Treatment History of State and Federal Prisoners, by Reported Prior Substance abuse, 1997

The preceding article was derived from the Bureau of Justice Statistics report "Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisoners, 1997," NCJ-172871. Copies of the entire report may be obtained from the Bureau of Justice Statistics website at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/satsfp97.htm.