Prisons & Drug Offenders

Statistics and other data regarding people under the control of the corrections system because of a drug offense. This includes people serving time in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities, as well as people sentenced to probation or serving time on parole.

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."

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.

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.

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.

Prisons - Data - Number of People Serving Time in State Prisons for Drug Offenses

State- and Local-Specific Data

(Number of People Serving Time in State Prisons in the US 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.

Estimated Number of People Sentenced To Federal Prison For Drug Offenses

Federal-Specific Data

(Estimated Number of People Sentenced To Federal Prison For Drug Offenses) "More than half (54%) of drug offenders in the federal prison system had a form of cocaine (powder or crack) as the primary drug type (table 2). Methamphetamine offenders (24%) accounted for the next largest share, followed by marijuana (12%) and heroin (6%) offenders. Offenders convicted of crimes involving other drugs (including LSD, some prescription drugs, and MDMA or ecstasy) made up 3% of offenders."

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