The Des Moines Register
Friday, January 9, 1998, Page5A
Most crimes leading to prison linked to use of booze and drugs
Washington, D.C. - Drugs or alcohol - and sometimes both - played a role in the crimes of 80 percent of the nation's 1.7 million prison inmates, according to a report released Thursday by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.
Yet while the number of inmates in state and federal prisons needing treatment rose 5 percent between 1995 and 1996, the number of those receiving it went down 11 percent in that period, the study found.
Citing this "treatment gap," former health secretary Joseph Califano - now president of the New York-based center - called for "a second front in the war on crime" to fight substance abuse in prison so inmates will be less likely to commit new crimes upon release.
The report said that of the 1.7 million people now in prison, 1.4 million were convicted of violating drug or alcohol laws, were high on drugs or alcohol when they committed other crimes, stole property to buy drugs, or have a history of drugs and alcohol abuse or addiction.
With the emphasis in recent years on drugs, alcohol often is overlooked as a leading ingredient in crime, Califano said. The center's study showed that 21 percent of state inmates in jail for violent crimes were drunk and not under the influence of and drug.
Charles Colson, chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, said the substance-abuse problem was compounded by the ready availability of drugs and alcohol in prison.
The study noted that between 1980 and 1996, the nation's prison population tripled as succeeding administrations and congresses doled out billions for prison construction and enacted laws increasing penalties for crimes.
The report said an investment of $6,500 a year per person to treat inmates would yield an economic benefit of $68,800 for every inmate who got out of jail and then avoided crime, stayed sober and kept a job.
If only 10 percent of inmates who had drug and alcohol problems stayed out of trouble after release, the economic benefit would be $8.6 billion in the first year - $456 million more than the cost of the treatment, the study said.
At the news conference, retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, President Clinton's drug policy advisor, endorsed the report.
The Des Moines Register
Friday, January 9, 1998, Page 5A