In its latest survey of the nation's jail populations, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported that 665,475 people were being held in local lock-ups as of June 30, 2002. Of that number, 156,000 were doing time for drug crimes, an increase of 37% since 1996. According to BJS, drug offenders "represent the largest source of jail population growth." Some 13% of jailed drug offenders, or about 20,000 people, had no previous criminal record and were facing drug charges for the first time.
But it was a dramatic increase in the number of people doing jail time for drug sales that drove the increase in drug offenders. Some 76,400 people were doing time for drug sales, up from 47,700 in 1996. According to BJS, about two-thirds of the increase in jailed drug offenders was due to the increase in the number of people jailed for trafficking.
The report also found that more than half of jail inmates were on probation, parole or pre-trial release at the time of their arrests. About 18% of all jail inmates were being held for parole or probation violations, while 28% were being held simply because they could not make bail pending trial.
While 41% of jail inmates had a current or prior violent offense, 46% were nonviolent repeat offenders and, as noted above, 13% first-time drug offenders. Nearly one-quarter of all jail inmates had been locked up three or more times before, the report found.
The BJS report also found heavy drug involvement by people who ended up in jail. According to the report, two-thirds of 2002 jail inmates said they were regular drug users, with more than half reporting use within the last month. Almost one-third said they were using drugs at the time of their offense, and slightly more than one-third said they were using alcohol.
The percentage of women inmates jumped from 10% to 12% of the total jail population. About 30% of them were doing time on drug charges, a higher rate than among the male population.
More than 60% of jail inmates were non-white, with blacks making up 40% of those jailed, whites 36%, and non-white Hispanics 19%. Two percent were Asian or American Indian, while 3% claimed a multicultural heritage.
The BJS special report, "Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002," and associated documents are available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/pji02.htm online.