Substance Abuse And America’s Prison Population


According to the report of National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, out of the 2.3 million convicts streaming nation’s prisons and jails, 1.5 million encounter the DSM IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction. Remaining 458,000 convicts are not meeting the strict DSM IV criteria or had experiences of substance abuse or were under the impact of alcohol or other drugs during their crime or committed their crime to get money to purchase drugs or were imprisoned for an alcohol or drug law violation or participated in some combination of these aspects. These readings are according to Behind Bars II: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population.

Combination of these two groups form 85 percent of the U.S. prison population. The new report released by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University also found that alcohol and other drugs are critical factors in all crime. In 2006, alcohol and other drugs were included in these inmate crimes:

  • 78 percent of violent crimes
  • 83 percent of property crimes and
  • 77 percent of public order, immigration or weapon crimes; and probation/parole violations.

The CASA report revealed that just 11 percent of total convicts with substance abuse and addiction illnesses receive treatment at the time of their imprisonment.

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