Drugs and the Prison, Jail, Probation, and Parole Systems

1. Number Of Sentenced People In US Prisons, By Offense

Federal:
"•Forty-six percent of prisoners sentenced to federal prison were serving time for a drug offense (more than 99% for drug trafficking) on September 30, 2019, the most recent date for which such data are available (tables 15 and 16).

"• At fiscal year-end 2019, about 59% (6,500) of all females sentenced to federal prison were serving time for drug offenses, compared to 45% (66,700) of all males.

"• About 1 in 12 federal prisoners (8%) were serving time for a violent offense at the end of fiscal-year 2019.

"• About 40% of federal prisoners in 2019 were in prison for a public-order offense (63,700 prisoners), including 18% (29,300) for a weapons offense and 5% (8,300) for a convicted immigration offense.

"• Almost half of white prisoners (48%) in federal prison at the end of fiscal-year 2019 had been convicted of a public-order offense, compared to 41% of black prisoners and 34% of Hispanic prisoners.

"• Forty-six percent of prisoners sentenced to federal prison were serving time for a drug offense (more than 99% for drug trafficking) on September 30, 2019, the most recent date for which such data are available (tables 15 and 16).

"• At fiscal year-end 2019, about 59% (6,500) of all females sentenced to federal prison were serving time for drug offenses, compared to 45% (66,700) of all males.

"• About 1 in 12 federal prisoners (8%) were serving time for a violent offense at the end of fiscal-year 2019.

"• About 40% of federal prisoners in 2019 were in prison for a public-order offense (63,700 prisoners), including 18% (29,300) for a weapons offense and 5% (8,300) for a convicted immigration offense.

"• Almost half of white prisoners (48%) in federal prison at the end of fiscal-year 2019 had been convicted of a public-order offense, compared to 41% of black prisoners and 34% of Hispanic prisoners.

"• About 30% of black federal prisoners at the end of fiscal-year 2019 had been convicted of a weapons offense, compared to 15% of white prisoners and 9%
of Hispanic prisoners.

"• Almost 60% of Hispanic federal prisoners at the end of fiscal-year 2019 were serving time for a drug offense (almost always for drug trafficking), and 16% were serving time for an adjudicated immigration offense.„ About 30% of black federal prisoners at the end of fiscal-year 2019 had been convicted of a weapons
offense, compared to 15% of white prisoners and 9% of Hispanic prisoners.

"• Almost 60% of Hispanic federal prisoners at the end of fiscal-year 2019 were serving time for a drug offense (almost always for drug trafficking), and 16% were serving time for an adjudicated immigration offense.

State:
"• 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.

2. Sentenced People In State Prisons In The US Whose Most Serious Offense Was Drug Possession

The US Dept. of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that at yearend 2018 there were 1,249,700 sentenced people in state prisons in the US, of whom 176,300 (14.1%) had as their most serious offense a drug charge: 46,500 for drug possession (3.7%) and 129,900 for "other" drug offenses, including manufacturing and sale (10.4%).

E. Ann Carson, PhD. Prisoners In 2019. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, October 2020, NCJ255155.

3. Sentenced People In Federal Prisons In The US For Whom A Drug Offense Was Their Most Serious Charge

The US Dept. of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that on Sept. 30, 2019, there were a total of 158,107 sentenced people in federal prisons in the US. Of those, 73,210 people (46.3% of the total) had as their most serious charge a drug offense. According to BJS, that figure "Includes trafficking, possession, and other drug offenses. More than 99% of federal drug offenders were sentenced for trafficking."

E. Ann Carson, PhD. Prisoners In 2019. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, October 2020, NCJ255155.

4. Total Number of People On Probation For Drug Offenses In The US

Of the 3,539,950 adults on probation in the US at the end of 2018, 26% (approximately 920,387 people) had a drug charge as their most serious offense.

Danielle Kaeble and Mariel Alper, PhD. Probation and Parole in the United States, 2017-2018. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 2020. NCJ252072.

5. 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."

The Pew Charitable Trusts. More Imprisonment Does Not Reduce State Drug Problems: Data show no relationship between prison terms and drug misuse. March 2018.

6. Total Number of People On Parole For Drug Offenses In The US

Of the 877,953 people on parole in the US at the end of 2018, 30% (approximately 263,386 people) had a drug charge as their most serious offense.

Danielle Kaeble and Mariel Alper, PhD. Probation and Parole in the United States, 2017-2018. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 2020. NCJ252072.

7. Offense Characteristics of Sentenced People 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.

8. 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.

9. Sentenced People In Federal Prison In The US, By Offense

"• Forty-six percent of prisoners sentenced to federal prison were serving time for a drug offense (more than 99% for drug trafficking) on September 30, 2019, the most recent date for which such data are available (tables 15 and 16).

"• At fiscal year-end 2019, about 59% (6,500) of all females sentenced to federal prison were serving time for drug offenses, compared to 45% (66,700) of all males.

"• About 1 in 12 federal prisoners (8%) were serving time for a violent offense at the end of fiscal-year 2019.

"• About 40% of federal prisoners in 2019 were in prison for a public-order offense (63,700 prisoners), including 18% (29,300) for a weapons offense and 5% (8,300) for a convicted immigration offense.

"• Almost half of white prisoners (48%) in federal prison at the end of fiscal-year 2019 had been convicted of a public-order offense, compared to 41% of black prisoners and 34% of Hispanic prisoners.

"• About 30% of black federal prisoners at the end of fiscal-year 2019 had been convicted of a weapons offense, compared to 15% of white prisoners and 9% of Hispanic prisoners.

"• Almost 60% of Hispanic federal prisoners at the end of fiscal-year 2019 were serving time for a drug offense (almost always for drug trafficking), and 16% were serving time for an adjudicated immigration offense."

E. Ann Carson, PhD. Prisoners In 2019. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, October 2020, NCJ255155.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. Estimated Number Of People In The US Sentenced To State and Federal Prison For Marijuana Offenses

Total Number of Sentenced People In Federal Prisons, 2004 = 153,776
Total Number of Sentenced People In State Prisons, 2004 = 1,274,600

Total Number of Sentenced People In Federal Prisons In The US For Whom a Drug Charge Was Their Most Serious Offense, 2004: 85,300 (55.5%)
Total Number of Sentenced People In State Prisons In The US For Whom a Drug Charge Was Their Most Serious Offense, 2004: 249,400 (19.6%)

Percent of sentenced people serving time in federal prisons whose most serious drug charges were marijuana/hashish offenses: 2004 = 12.4%
Percent of sentenced people serving time in state prisons whose most serious drug charges were marijuana/hashish, 2004 = 12.7%

(Sentenced people with drug offenses as their most serious charge) * (percent marijuana) = sentenced people serving time for marijuana offenses

Sentenced people serving time in federal prison on marijuana charges, 2004 = 10,577
Sentenced people serving time in state prisons on marijuana charges, 2004 = 31,674
Total sentenced people serving time on marijuana charges, state and federal prisons combined, 2004 = 42,251

Note: These data only address people in prisons and thus exclude everyone serving time in local jails because of a marijuana conviction.

Christopher J. Mumola and Jennifer C. Karberg. Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US DOJ. January 2007. NCJ 213530.
William J. Sabol, PhD, Heather Couture, and Paige M. Harrison. Prisoners in 2006. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US DOJ. Dec. 2007. NCJ219416.
E. Ann Carson, PhD. Prisoners in 2013. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US DOJ. Sept. 2014. NCJ247282.

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.

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.

18. Incarceration Growth 1995-2003

"Violent offenders under Federal jurisdiction increased 46% from 1995 to 2003, and accounted for almost 8% of the total growth during the period. Homicide offenders increased 146%, from 1,068 in 1995 to 2,632 in 2003.

"While the number of offenders in each major offense category increased [from 1995 to 2003], the number incarcerated for a drug offense accounted for the largest percentage of the total growth (49%), followed by public-order offenders (38%)."

Harrison, Paige M. & Allen J. Beck, Allen J., PhD. Prisoners in 2005. Washington: DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Nov. 2006. NCJ 215092.

19. Number of People Serving Time in State Prisons for Drug Offenses

According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the estimated 206,300 sentenced prisoners under state jurisdiction serving time for drug offenses at year-end 2014, 67,800 were non-Latino whites (32.9%), 68,000 were non-Latino African Americans (33.0%), 28,800 were Hispanic (7.2%). The ethnicity of the remaining 41,700 is not reported, meaning they could have been of another ethnicity, multiracial, or unknown.

E. Ann Carson, PhD, and Elizabeth Anderson. Prisoners In 2015. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2016, NCJ250229, p. 30, Appendix Table 5.0
https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?...
https://www.bjs.gov/content/pu...

20. Drug Offenses of State Inmates in the US, 2004

According to the US Justice Department, in 2004, 27.9% of people serving time for drug offenses in state prisons had a possession charge as their most serious offense; 69.4% were serving time on trafficking offenses; and 2.7% were in for "other."

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. 4.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

21. Drug Treatment Admissions and Incarceration Rates

"Increased admissions to drug treatment are associated with reduced incarceration rates. States with a higher drug treatment admission rate than the national average send, on average, 100 fewer people to prison per 100,000 in the population than states that have lower than average drug treatment admissions. Of the 20 states that admit the most people to treatment per 100,000, 19 had incarceration rates below the national average. Of the 20 states that admitted the fewest people to treatment per 100,000, eight had incarceration rates above the national average."

Justice Policy Institute, "Substance Abuse Treatment and Public Safety," January 2008.

22. Drug Use by People in Prison at the Time of Their Offense

"Violent offenders in State prison (50%) were less likely than drug (72%) and property (64%) offenders to have used drugs in the month prior to their offense."

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.

23. Incarceration for Drug Crimes Both Ineffective and Counterproductive

"The potency of incarceration is further diminished by three other forces, researchers have found. The first, sometimes referred to as the 'replacement effect,' applies largely to crimes that occur as part of a market, such as fencing stolen property or, most notably, drug transactions. Once incarcerated, drug dealers tend to be quickly replaced by new dealers and, as during the crack epidemic, the new recruits can be younger and more prone to violence than their predecessors.57 Thus while drug dealers no doubt deserve punishment, most leading researchers, and many law enforcement officials, now agree that incarcerating the foot soldiers in drug gangs, not to mention drug users, has a negligible impact on crime.58 Moreover, by creating job openings in drug-dealing organizations, it draws more people into criminal lifestyles and may in certain cases exacerbate crime.59"

Pew Center on the States, "One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections" (Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts, March 2009), p. 19.

24. Former Drug Czar Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey: "We have created an American gulag."

"We must have law enforcement authorities address the issue because if we do not, prevention, education, and treatment messages will not work very well. But having said that, I also believe that we have created an American gulag."

Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey (USA, Ret.), Director, ONDCP, Keynote Address, Opening Plenary Session, National Conference on Drug Abuse Prevention Research, National Institute on Drug Abuse, September 19, 1996, Washington, DC.

25. Drug Free Policies and Growing Underclass

"But while drug-free schools remain a fantasy, their policies are contributing to an uneducated underclass that just gets larger, more despairing, and more entrenched. This underclass now includes five million young adults between sixteen and twenty-four who are both out of school and out of work, with few skills and fewer prospects. It includes most ex-prisoners, half of whom lack a high school education, and most of whom are jobless one year after release. And it includes Black Americans and other racial minorities who have never remotely attained the standard of well-being common throughout the developed world."

Eric Blumenson, Eva S. Nilsen, "How to Construct an Underclass, or How the War on Drugs Became a War on Education," The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, (May 2002), p. 76.