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Drugs & Substance Abuse in Corrections - Statistics

Presents prevalence estimates of drug use, drug use disorders, and participation in drug treatment programs among state prisoners and sentenced jail inmates, including trends in drug use over time by demographics and most serious offense, drug use at the time of offense and whether an inmate committed the offense to obtain drugs, and comparisons to the general population. Data are from BJS's National Inmate Survey, conducted in 2007 and 2008-09. Comparisons to the general population are based on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted in 2007, 2008, and 2009.


  • During 2007-09, an estimated 58% of state prisoners and 63% of sentenced jail inmates met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for drug dependence or abuse.
  • Among prisoners and jail inmates, prevalence estimates for those who met the criteria for dependence were two to three times higher than for abuse.
  • The percentage of inmates who met the DSM-IV criteria was higher for those held for property offenses than those held for violent or other public order offenses.
  • Lifetime drug use among the incarcerated populations was unchanged from 2002 to 2009.
  • During 2007-09, prisoners (77%) and jail inmates (78%) reported having ever used marijuana/hashish, more than any other drug.

"Prisoners experience high rates of drug dependence, health problems and premature mortality. Without intervention, they often come into further contact with the criminal justice system, creating further health risk. Opioid dependence is common among prisoners, yet treatment with opioid substitution therapy (OST) may reduce or prevent morbidity, mortality and offending … The results highlight that the prison setting provides an important opportunity to engage people in OST. Notably, OST treatment in prison and immediately post-release was found to be highly protective against mortality both while incarcerated and after release. Considering some of the known benefits of OST, this study provides strong evidence to support the value of OST programs within the criminal justice system" (p. 1). Results are provided for: the natural history of criminal justice system involvement among opioid-dependent people, 1993–2011; the extent of imprisonment of opioid-dependent people, 2000–12; potential differences in the impacts of buprenorphine and methadone on treatment retention and mortality; gender differences in opioid substitution therapy engagement; The association between retention in opioid substitution therapy and crime among opioid-dependent people; the impact of opioid substitution therapy provision in prison upon in-prison mortality; the impact of opioid substitution therapy on mortality following release from prison; and cost effectiveness of opioid substitution therapy in reducing mortality post-release among this group.

Determining the Impact of Opioid Substitution Therapy upon Mortality and Recidivism among Prisoners: A 22 Year Data Linkage Study cover

This Special Report presents "a description of drug offenders in federal prison, including criminal history, demographics, gun involvement in the offense, and sentence imposed. The report examines each characteristics by type of drug involved in the offense. It also examines demographic information for the entire federally sentenced population and discusses alternative methods for defining drug offenders. Data are from a linked file created with data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and United States Sentencing Commission. Highlights: This study is based on 94,678 offenders in federal prison at fiscal yearend 2012 who were sentenced on a new U.S. district court commitment and whose most serious offense (as classified by the Federal Bureau of Prisons) was a drug offense; Almost all (99.5%) drug offenders in federal prison were serving sentences for drug trafficking; Cocaine (powder or crack) was the primary drug type for more than half (54%) of drug offenders in federal prison; Race of drug offenders varied greatly by drug type. Blacks were 88% of crack cocaine offenders, Hispanics or Latinos were 54% of powder cocaine offenders, and whites were 48% of methamphetamine offenders; [and] More than a third (35%) of drug offenders in federal prison at sentencing, had either no or minimal criminal history."

Drug Offenders in Federal Prisons: Estimates of Characteristics Based on Linked Data Cover

MARTINSVILE, Va. — For most of the last decade, this once thriving city had the highest unemployment rate in Virginia. Its disability and poverty rates are consistently double the state average, and its population is aging.

In July, the former textile and furniture manufacturing mecca earned another dubious distinction. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its drugstores dispense the highest volume of opioid painkillers per capita in the nation.

Using 2015 data from retail pharmacy receipts, the CDC for the first time reported the volume and potency of pain tablets sold in the nation’s drugstores and calculated per capita rates of morphine equivalent doses sold at the county level.

Martinsville drugstores came out on top, selling enough Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin and other opioid painkillers to medicate every man, woman and child in the city for 136 days, nearly seven times the national average.

In 2015, Americans on average consumed the equivalent of 21 days of the average dose of morphine per person, three times the rate of opioid use in 1999, according to the CDC.

Drugs (BJS)
Outlines types of drug-related crime, including possession, distribution and manufacture of drugs as well as other offenses stemming from drug use or addiction.

National DNA Database Statistics (BJS)
Describes the National DNA Index and provides the numbers of offender profiles, arrestees, forensic profiles, participating laboratories and investigations aided in each state.

Office of National Drug Control Policy
Collection of data sets on drug use among arrestees, drug control budgets, and drug availability.

Publicly Funded Forensic Crime Laboratories (BJS)
The Census of Publicly Funded Forensic Crime Laboratories provides data on crime labs across the country, including the services they provide, the resources they use, and quality assurance measures.

Survey of DNA Crime Laboratories (BJS)
Survey provides data on personnel, budgets, workloads, equipment, procedures, policies and data processing in crime laboratories that perform DNA analysis.

"Almost half of the 195,809 federally sentenced individuals in the Bureau of Prisons are serving time for drug trafficking offenses, but little is known about their criminal histories or the nature of their offenses. This brief examines both, finding that many people in federal prison for drug crimes have minimal or no criminal histories, and most were not convicted of violent or leading roles. Nonetheless, many serve long prison sentences due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Lasting reductions in the size of the federal prison population will require big cuts in length of stay for drug offenses" (home page). Sections of this brief cover: many drug offenders housed in federal prisons have little to no criminal histories; few are convicted of leading trafficking organizations or responsible for violent acts during drug trafficking crimes; long federal sentences are driven by mandatory minimums; and continued federal prison population reductions require shorter drug sentences.

Who Gets Time for Federal Drug Offenses? Data Trends and Opportunities for Reform cover
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