CASA Study Shows Alcohol and Drugs Implicated in the Crimes and Incarceration of 80% of Men and Women in Prison
Taxpayers Spent $30 Billion in 1996 to Incarcerate Inmates for Drug- and Alcohol-Involved Crimes
Califano calls for Second Front in War on Crime--In Our Prisons
Drug and Alcohol Treatment in Prison Will Save Billions of Dollars and Significantly Reduce Crime
Behind Bars: Substance Abuse and America's Prison Population, a 281-page report released today by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), shows that the explosion in America's prison population---between 1980 and 1996, the number of inmates in state, federal and local prisons tripled, from 500,000 to 1.7 million--is due overwhelmingly to criminal activity linked to drug and alcohol abuse. The study reveals that drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are implicated in the incarceration of 80%--1.4 million--of the 1.7 million men and women behind bars today. Among the 1.4 million substance-involved inmates are parents of 2.4 million children, many of them minors.
The report, the culmination of three years work, finds that in 1996 $30 billion of taxpayer dollars were spent to incarcerate individuals who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse and addiction or are serving time for drug- or alcohol-related crimes and that alcohol is more closely associated with violent crime than any illegal drug.
"This report is a call to open in the nation's prisons a second front in the war on crime," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA president and former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. "It is a call for a revolution in how we view those offenders whose core problem is alcohol and drug abuse--a call to identify them, assess their treatment and training needs, separate them from criminal incorrigibles and give them the hand up they need to become productive citizens and responsible parents. If we answer that call, we will save billions of dollars, reduce crime, and reclaim thousands of individuals to live as responsible parents, hard workers, taxpayers and law-abiding citizens. The choice is ours as well as theirs," he said.
Behind Bars describes how substance abuse and addiction has shaped the criminal histories of 80% of prisoners today: 81% of the 1,076, 625 state inmates, 80% of the 105,544 federal inmates and 77% of the 518,492 local jail inmates1 violated drug or alcohol laws, were high at the time they committed their crimes, stole property to buy drugs, or have a history of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction--or share some combination of these characteristics.
Currently, one of every 144 American adults is behind bars for a crime in which drugs or alcohol is involved. One out of every 60 men is currently incarcerated; one out of every 14 black men and one out of every 34 Hispanic men. If rates of incarceration continue to rise at their current pace, one in every 20 Americans born in 1997-- one in every 11 men and one in every four black men-- will serve time in prison during their lifetime.
"The case for change, revealed in the report, is urgent and overwhelming. Reducing alcohol and drug abuse and addiction is the key to the next major reduction in crime and the prison population provides an enormous missed opportunity," said Califano.
"Failure to use the criminal justice system to get non-violent drug- and alcohol-abusing offenders into treatment and training is irrational public policy and a profligate use of public funds. Releasing drug- and alcohol-abusing and addicted inmates without treating them is tantamount to visiting criminals on society. Releasing drug-addicted inmates without treatment helps maintain the market for illegal drugs and support drug dealers," added Califano.
Behind Bars is the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken of the relationship of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction to the character and size of America's prison population. For three years, CASA has examined all available data on the people in prison including the U.S. Department of Justice surveys of inmates, surveyed and interviewed state and federal corrections officials, prosecutors and law enforcement officers, tested programs for substance-abusing offenders and reviewed relevant studies and literature.
The CASA study documents the shattering impact of substance abuse on America's correctional systems:
By the year 2000 if current trends continue, the nation will break the $100 million-dollar-a-day barrier in spending to incarcerate individuals with serious drug and alcohol problems.
Between 1980 and 1996, the number of men in prison increased 229% from 477,706 to 1,570,231; the number of women increased 439% from 24,180 to 130,430.
Between 1995 and 1996, state corrections budgets jumped 28%, the most rapidly growing expense for all states.
Inmates who are alcohol and drug abusers and addicts are the most likely to be reincarcerated--again and again--and length of sentences increase for repeat offenders.
The number one substance abuse crime in America is drunk driving, accounting for 1.4 million arrests in 1995 at a cost of $5.2 billion for arrests and prosecutions.
81% of individuals selling drugs test positive at the time of arrest, including 56% for cocaine and 13% for heroin.
Incidence of new AIDS cases among state and federal inmates in 1994 was 17 times higher than among the general population and most of these cases are drug related.
The explosion of the inmate population over the last sixteen years is largely attributable to drug law violations:
From 1980 to 1995, drug law violators accounted for 30% of the increase in the state prison population and 68% of the increase in the federal prison population, making drug law violators by far the largest group of federal inmates.
Arrests for drug law violations grew at more than 10 times the rate of property crime arrests and more than twice the rate of violent crime arrests.
Recidivism and Substance Abuse: Joined at the Hip
The report found that inmates who are alcohol and drug abusers and addicts are the most likely to be reincarcerated repeatedly:
The more prior convictions an individual has, the more likely he is a drug abuser. In state prisons, 41% of first offenders have used drugs regularly compared to 63% of inmates with two prior convictions and 81% of inmates with five or more prior convictions.
50% of state parole and probation violators were under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both when they committed their new offense.
State prison inmates with five or more prior convictions are three times likelier than first-time offenders to be regular crack users.
Alcohol: The First Cousin of Violent Crime
Alcohol is more closely associated with crimes of violence than any other drug. It is a bigger culprit in connection with murder, rape, assault and child and spouse abuse than any illegal drug:
21% of state inmates incarcerated for violent crimes were under the influence of alcohol (and no other substance) when they committed their crime compared with 3% under the influence of cocaine or crack alone and 1% under the influence of heroin alone.
Violent crimes among jail inmates are also more closely linked to alcohol than to any other drug, with 26% of violent offenders under the influence of alcohol alone at the time of their crime, versus 4% under the influence of crack or cocaine alone and none under the influence of heroin.
It Runs in the Family
The CASA study also examines the common characteristics and histories of substance-involved offenders. Regular drug users are twice as likely to have parents who abused drugs and alcohol than inmates who are not regular drug users. They are also likelier than the general inmate population to have a family member who served prison time.
The Treatment Gap: Need vs. Availability and Participation
The report concludes that in state and federal prisons, the gap between available substance abuse treatment - and inmate participation - and the need for such treatment is enormous and widening. State officials estimate that 70 to 85% of inmates need some level of substance abuse treatment. But in 1996, only 13% of state inmates were in any treatment.
As the number of inmates in need of treatment has risen, the proportion receiving it has declined. CASA estimates that states spend an average of 5% of their annual prison budgets on drug and alcohol treatment. In 1997, the Federal Bureau of Prisons spent $25 million--0.9% of the federal prison budget on drug treatment. In 1996, there were 840,000 state and federal inmates in need of treatment and about 150,000 inmates actually received treatment, and much of that treatment was inadequate. From 1995 to 1996, the number of inmates in treatment decreased by 18,360 as inmates in need of treatment rose by 39,578.
The study suggests that many prisoners can be rehabilitated with well-designed prison based treatment programs and literacy training, combined with prerelease planning and community-based aftercare services, including assistance with housing, education, employment and medical care. Residential prison treatment combined with appropriate aftercare can reduce relapse and recidivism.
Missed Opportunity: Reducing Crime and Costs to Taxpayers
In examining the increasing cost of incarcerating prisoners, CASA found that 80% or $30 billion of the $38 billion dollars spent in 1996 to build and operate the nation's prisons and jails is spent to incarcerate substance-involved offenders.
The CASA study estimates that it would take approximately $6,500 per year, in addition to usual incarceration costs, to provide an inmate with residential treatment in prison and include vocational and educational training, psychological services and aftercare case management. For each offender who successfully completes treatment and returns to the community as a sober citizen with a job, it is estimated that an economic benefit of $68,800, in reduced crime, arrest, prosecution and incarceration costs, health care savings and potential earnings, will accrue during the first year after release.
There are 1.2 million inmates who are drug and alcohol abusers and addicts (the other 200,000 of the substance-involved inmates are dealers who do not use drugs). If only 10% of those inmates--120,000--are successfully treated and trained, the economic benefit in the first year of work after release would be $8.6 billion. That is a surplus of $456 million over the $7.8 billion treatment and training costs for all 1.2 million inmates. Thereafter, the economic benefit would be more than $8 billion each year.
The Second Front in the War on Crime
To open a second front in the war on crime, the CASA report sets out a plan of action to cut taxpayer costs and reduce recidivism, including:
Assess the substance abuse involvement of potential inmates at the time of arrest.
Provide police, prosecutors and judges with flexibility so that non-violent offenders who are addicted to alcohol and drugs can be diverted from prison into treatment, drug courts, coerced abstinence or other programs.
Get rid of mandatory sentences for nonviolent offenders with no chance of parole.
Train correction officers to better prevent the use of alcohol and drugs in prison and assist inmates with recovery.
Expand random drug testing of prisoners and keep jails and prisons alcohol and drug free, employing sanctions against inmates caught abusing these substances.
Provide treatment in prison to all who need it and give incentives (reduced prison time) to inmates who successfully complete treatment.
Increase the availability of religious and spiritual activity and counseling and provide an environment that encourages such activity.
Provide pre-release planning for treatment and aftercare services for parolees who need them.
Provide job placement services for inmates upon release.
Train parole and probation officers to deal with alcohol and drug abuse and assist parolees with finding services they need to remain clean once they leave prison, such as drug-free housing, literacy training and social services.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA's missions are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works best in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.
1.Local jails generally house individuals convicted of misdemeanors and sentenced to less than one year in prison and individuals who are awaiting trial.