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Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us
rests) rather than of persons. The BJS prisoner surveys do cover the institutionalized offender population that the NHSDA misses, but they are at present performed only once every five years or more. There are three relevant BJS surveys:
The Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities, conducted every five years, provides information on individual characteristics of prison inmates. In addition to standard elements, such as current offenses and sentences, criminal histories, family background, and education level, data are collected on prior drug and alcohol abuse and on exposure to treatment and other in-prison services. Data for this survey are collected through personal interviews with a nationally representative sample of 14,000 inmates in about 300 state prisons and exist for 1974, 1979, 1986, 1991, and 1997.
The Survey of Inmates in Federal Correctional Facilities, first conducted in 1991 and again in 1997, collects data on the same variables used in the Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities. These are also self-report data, elicited through personal interviews with a probability-based sample of 4,041 federal inmates. Based on the completed interviews, estimates for the entire correctional population are developed. Data from the combined inmate surveys are reported as the Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities. The interview completion rate exceeds 90 percent for both the federal and state surveys.
The Survey of Inmates in Local Jails is periodically administered to collect data on the family background and personal characteristics of jail inmates. It includes detailed data on past drug and alcohol use and history of contact with the criminal justice system. The survey relies on personal interviews with a nationally representative sample of almost 6,000 jail inmates. Data are available from this series for years 1978, 1983, 1989, and 1996.
For a more complete description of these BJS Surveys, see Appendix B.
Linking NHSDA with Treatment Databases. It has also been suggested that the NHSDA data be linked with DAWN and with surveys of populations receiving treatment in an effort to produce national estimates of the high-risk subpopulation in need of and who receive treatment.8 The feasi-
Many of these people are included in the universe covered by general population surveys, such as the NHSDA, which includes treatment clients who are in ambulatory settings or those who receive short detoxification in a clinic or hospital setting. Excluded are clients who are receiving long-term residential drug treatment.