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Drug Use, Testing, and Treatment in Jails

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EDT                     BJS
WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 2000                         202/307-0784 


     WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An estimated 10 percent of the
inmates tested for drugs in local jails during June 1998
tested positive for one or more illegal drugs, the Justice
Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics announced today. 
More than two-thirds of the 712 jails that tested inmates
had at least one inmate who tested positive.  
     About 54 percent of all inmates were held in jails
that tested for illegal drug use.  Different jails test
inmates at various times during their incarceration, and
they use a variety of criteria to select inmates for
testing.  Among those facilities that tested, fewer than 5
percent tested all inmates upon admission to jail.  About 49
percent of those jails that test, selected inmates at
random, and 69 percent selected inmates for testing upon an
indication of drug use.  Some jurisdictions also test all
inmates upon reentry into a facility after an absence for
activities such as work release, furlough or court visit. 
     Among the sanctions that jails impose on inmates who
test positive, 70 percent usually take away inmate
privileges, such as visitation rights, recreational
activities and freedom to move about the facility, and about
half take away good time or reclassify the offender to a
higher security level. 
     Jails are generally operated by local officials and
hold defendants awaiting trial, as well as convicted men and
women serving sentences of a year or less.
     Drug testing policies to detect and control drug use
in jails often also include jail employees.  Forty-nine
percent of the jails reported testing staff members, and 47
percent reported testing inmates.  Of  the 1,418 jail
jurisdictions that tested employees, 70 percent said all
staff members were subject to testing, including
supervisors, administrative staff, corrections officers, as
well as programs and treatment personnel.  One-fifth of
these jurisdictions tested only prospective employees, and 1
percent tested only corrections officers.   Dismissal is the
usual sanction against staff members. 
     Almost 73 percent of jail authorities provided
substance abuse treatment or programs for jail inmates. 
Self-help programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or
Narcotics Anonymous, were common, with about 68 percent of
jurisdictions having such groups or providing peer group
counseling or education and awareness programs.  About 43
percent provided detoxification, sent inmates to a special
residential treatment facility, or provided professional
     In 1998 an estimated 417,000 local jail inmates--70
percent of all jail inmates--had been arrested for or
convicted of a drug offense or had used drugs regularly.
     The survey asked questions about current drug use only
of those inmates whose cases were concluded in order to
avoid damaging the rights of those awaiting trial.   Among
inmates who had pleaded guilty or had been convicted of an
offense, 36 percent were under the influence of drugs at the
time of the offense.  In 1998 almost 72,000 were under the
influence of marijuana or hashish and 59,000 of powder or
crack cocaine.
     BJS reports that in interviews with convicted jail
inmates, 16 percent said they committed their offenses to
get money for drugs.  Two-thirds of all convicted jail
inmates were actively involved with drugs prior to their
admission to jail.  Drug-involved inmates were younger and
more likely to be African-American than other inmates. 
About 38 percent of drug-involved inmates were white, 41
percent were African-American, 18 percent were Hispanic and
3 percent were from other racial or ethnic groups.  Nearly a
third were under 25 years old.
     Among convicted jail inmates who were actively
involved with drugs prior to their admission to jail, 20
percent said they had received treatment or participated in
a substance abuse program since their admission. 
     The findings are based on data collected in June 1998
from a representative sample of the nation's approximately
3,365 jails and in interviews with more than 6,100 inmates,
convicted or awaiting trial.  The special report, "Drug Use,
Testing, and Treatment in Jails" (NCJ-179999), was written
by BJS statistician Doris James Wilson.  Single copies may
be obtained from the BJS fax-on-demand system by dialing
301/519-5550, listening to the complete menu and  selecting
document number 199.  Or call the BJS clearinghouse
number:1-800-732-3277.  Fax orders for mail delivery to
The BJS Internet site is:
     Additional criminal justice materials can be obtained
from the Office of Justice Programs homepage at:       
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After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354
Date Published: May 10, 2000