Drug, Alcohol and Mental Health Issues Affect Most Offenders

Summary

More than half of prison and jail inmates meet criteria for drug dependence.

Most offenders are drug and alcohol addicts in need of treatment.

Add mental health concerns, and we come to the conclusion that the majority of offenders are clinically affected.

This reality is making the jobs of police officers, correctional staff and parole and probation agents extremely difficult.

We understand that we cannot incarcerate our way out of codependency.

It’s also obvious that we cannot treat our way out of this problem without a massive influx of funds.

Author

Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University

Article

It’s alarming when one considers drug and alcohol use and crime, and then contemplates the percent of offenders with mental health problems.

A new report on substance abuse from the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice is summarized below. We will complement this data with additional sources, and add some observations.

The vast majority of offenders use drugs, and most have mental health issues based on self-reports and a formal diagnosis, see Crime in America-Mental Health.

If you are a police officer, you have a very high probability (a certainty?) that you will interact with multiple people with mental health issues who are concurrently high on drugs or have a substance abuse history.

As a correctional officer or parole and probation agent, the same issues apply.

When I was the lead spokespeople for correctional and parole and probation agencies, we routinely stated that 80 to 90 percent of our offenders had a “history” of substance abuse. What we really meant was that the majority of them needed individualized treatment. Peer counseling and self-help groups are poor substitutes for treatment.

Alcohol

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 86.4 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 70.1 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 56.0 percent reported that they drank in the past month.

26.9 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month in 2015, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse.

It’s been our experience that the vast majority of offenders abuse alcohol. Historically (and criminologically), alcohol is strongly connected to violent crime.

Arrests and Drugs

Anywhere from 56 percent (Charlotte) to 82 percent (Chicago) of arrestees across sites tested positive for the presence of some substance at the time of arrest. In 9 out of the 10 sites in 2009, 60 percent or more of arrestees tested positive, see ADAM and Drug Use at Arrest.

Thus when you look at the report below, it indicates an undercount as to offenders using drugs at the time of arrest.

Observations

More than half of prison and jail inmates meet criteria for drug dependence.

When you include alcohol, it’s our opinion that the majority of offenders are current addicts in need of treatment.

Add mental health concerns, and we come to the conclusion that the majority of offenders are clinically impacted.

This reality is making the jobs of police officers, correctional staff and parole and probation agents very difficult.

We understand that we cannot incarcerate our way out of codependency.

But have we come to grips that drug, alcohol and mental health treatments are expensive and have to be administered multiple times before they take effect.

It’s also obvious that we cannot treat our way out of this problem without a massive influx of new funds.

In our opinion, the root cause of justice involved people and substance abuse/mental health issues is child abuse that few are willing to acknowledge or address.

New DOJ Report on Substance Abuse Summary

More than half (58%) of state prisoners and two-thirds (63%) of sentenced jail inmates met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse, according to data collected through the National Inmate Surveys (NIS).

In comparison, approximately 5% of the total general population age 18 or older met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse.

Drug Dependence and Abuse

During 2007-09, more than half of state prisoners and two-thirds of sentenced jail inmates met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse.

About 58% of state prisoners and 63% of sentenced jail inmates during 2007-09 met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse for any drug.

Female inmates were more likely than male inmates to have met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse.

A larger percentage of non-Hispanic white state prisoners (62%) and sentenced jail inmates (72%) met the criteria for dependence or abuse than non-Hispanic black inmates in prison (55%) or jail (57%).

Hispanic inmates (58% in prison and 55% in jail) were also less likely than white inmates to have met the criteria.

Inmates incarcerated for a property offense were more likely to have met the criteria for dependence or abuse than inmates incarcerated for other offenses.

Among prisoners who met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse, there was no difference in the percentage incarcerated for violent offenses (54%), DWI/DUI offenses (55%), or other public order offenses (55%). Among jail inmates, 45% of those incarcerated for DWI/DUI and 51% for public order offenses met the criteria.

Trends in Lifetime Use of drugs

Overall drug use reported by inmates was unchanged from past surveys.

Lifetime use and regular use of drugs by state prisoners and sentenced jail inmates remained relatively stable.

During 2007-09, an estimated 81% of persons in prisons and 84% of those in jail reported ever using any drug in their lifetime.

These percentages were virtually unchanged from the 83% of prisoners (based on 2004 Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities) and 85% of sentenced jail inmates (based on 2002 Survey of Inmates in Local Jails) reported ever using drugs.

Drug Use at Arrest

4 in 10 prisoners and jail inmates used drugs at the time of the offense for which they were currently incarcerated. 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

Crime for Drugs

About 4 in 10 state prisoners and sentenced jail inmates who were incarcerated for property offenses committed the crime to get money for drugs or to obtain 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.

Participation in Treatment

Fewer than a third of inmates who met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse received drug treatment or participated in a program.

Among inmates who met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse, 28% of prisoners and 22% of jail inmates said they received drug treatment or participated in a program since admission to the current facility.

However, inmates may have participated in or received more than one type of treatment program. Nineteen percent of those in prison said they participated in a self-help group or peer counseling, 15% were in a drug education program, 10% were placed in a residential facility or unit, and 6% received drug-related counseling by a professional.

In comparison, about 12% of sentenced jail inmates participated in a self-help group or peer counseling, 8% were in a drug education program, 8% were placed in a residential facility or unit, and 6% received drug-related counseling by a professional.

Sources

Bureau of Justice Statistics-Drug Use

General facts on offenders and substance abuse is available at Basic Drug Facts

Contacts

Contact us at [email protected].

Media on deadline, use [email protected].


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