BJS prison data show that by 1998, the number of state and federal prisoners serving a sentence for a drug offense had grown by nearly 120,000 since 1990. Drug offenders in 1998 accounted overall for 21 percent of state and an astounding 58 percent of federal prisoners (Beck, 2000). For jail inmates, BJS reported that in 1998, 26 percent of all inmates in local facilities had committed a drug offense, and 64 percent of jail inmates had used drugs regularly in the past (Wilson, 2000). State Court Processing Statistics for 1997 also reflect the policy emphasis on enforcement. Drug offenses made up the largest proportion of all felony cases filed in the courts of the nation’s largest counties—37 percent of all felonies, compared with 25 percent for violent offenses and 31 percent for property offenses. Drug offenders on pretrial release also engaged in pretrial misconduct at higher rates than other felony offenders (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1996b). State trial court statistics show similar trends (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999d).
BJS also develops composite descriptions from their own and other datasets on subjects of special interest. For example, Greenfeld (1998) conducted a new analysis of national data on the impact of alcohol abuse on crime. The report, Alcohol and Crime, drew on all of the BJS data series described above, plus the National Crime Victim Survey, the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, and the National Incident Based Reporting Program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Fatal Accident Reporting System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The findings from this analysis leave no doubt about the magnitude of the public safety problems related to alcohol abuse (Greenfeld, 1998).
Similar efforts could be mounted to develop better information for policy formation on both drug and crime control. One example of the potential for conducting integrated analyses can be found in a current BJS effort to study recidivism among 1994 releasees in 15 states. BJS is integrating a number of datasets to obtain a sample that will be representative of nearly 300,000 persons released from prison. Among other issues, the study will attempt to determine whether drug-involved inmates who were treated in prison have fared better in terms of reoffending than their untreated counterparts upon release (personal communication with Lawrence Greenfeld, Deputy Director, BJS, May 22, 2000). This information will be helpful in developing treatment policies and programs for both active and incarcerated offender populations.