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Trends in Substance Abuse and Treatment Needs Among Inmates, Final Reports

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2002
271 pages
This document presents an analysis of the substance use patterns of inmates and the relationship between substance abuse and the growth in the inmate population.
Data were used from the most recent national surveys of prison and jail inmates sponsored by the U. S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. Between 1980 and 2000, the total number of inmates in the United States nearly quadrupled, numbering from 501,886 to 2,071,686. The State prison population increased by 318 percent, the Federal prison population by 512 percent, and the number of local jail inmates by 241 percent. Substance use and abuse and involvement with drug crime are endemic among inmates. Nearly 1.7 million of the 2 million adult Americans in prison or jail are seriously involved with drugs or alcohol. The connections between the use of illegal drugs and the abuse of alcohol and crime have been well documented. A substantial proportion of inmates incarcerated for violent crimes are substance-involved. The majority of inmates serving time for property offenses are involved with drugs and alcohol. Prison and jail inmates have a substantially higher prevalence of drug use than the general population. Inmates also have substantially higher rates of drinking than the general adult population. Inmates were classified according to substance involvement and drug use severity. Results show that alcohol-involved offenders are older than the general inmate population; and substance-using inmates are less likely to have finished high school, and more likely to have acquired income through illegal activity in the month prior to their incarceration. Regular drug users are most likely to have received income from public assistance, and less likely to have been raised by both parents. Many inmates have young children. Inmates with substance involvement are more likely to report a history of their own parent’s abuse of alcohol and drugs. Intergenerational cycles of criminal involvement are also common among inmates with drug or alcohol involvement. Recidivism, treatment participation, women inmates, and HIV/AIDS in prisons and jails are also discussed. References, notes, 5 appendixes

Date Published: August 1, 2002