3: Breaking the Cycle of Substance Abuse and Crime

The links between substance abuse and crime are clear. More than a decade of NIJ data show that a majority of those detained in jail after being arrested test positive for recent drug use, and BJS surveys of state prisoners have found that as many as 83 percent report prior drug use. While the causal relationship between substance abuse and crime is not substantiated, the implications for the criminal and juvenile justice systems are the same - substance abuse and crime are part of a cycle that must be interrupted to ensure public safety in our communities.

In keeping with the principles of the Justice Department's Drug Control Strategic Plan, OJP is working to build substance abuse intervention into all points in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. The ultimate goal is to build a comprehensive program at the state and local level that ranges from youth drug prevention to aftercare for ex-offenders released to the community. OJP supports substance abuse assessment and treatment at all stages of the process - arrest, adjudication, incarceration or correctional supervision, and reentry to the community.


The Drug-Free Communities Support Program began in FY 1998 to fund community coalitions that work together on substance abuse reduction initiatives. It is administered by OJJDP on behalf of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In FY 1999, its second year of operation, the Drug-Free Communities program expanded to more than 200 sites in 43 states. ONDCP and OJJDP awarded $18 million to 124 new communities and continued to fund 92 communities that received FY 1998 awards.

Under the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, community coalitions that work together on substance abuse reduction initiatives receive funds to target youth drug use. The coalitions must design and implement multisector, multistrategy, long-term plans designed to reduce substance abuse among youth.


NIJ's Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (ADAM) collects and analyzes interviews and urinalysis of adult and juvenile arrestees and detainees in police lock-ups in 35 major metropolitan areas. In 1998, the ADAM program conducted interviews and drug tests with more than 30,000 persons. The 35 sites are distributed across the country to give a picture of regional drug use trends, and 12 of the 35 sites were added in 1998.

In April 1999, NIJ published Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program: 1998 Annual Report on Drug Use Among Adult and Juvenile Arrestees. Key findings included:

NIJ's Breaking the Cycle program is testing the theory that reduced drug use in a defendant population will result in a decline in criminal behavior, improvement in the population's social functioning, and a more effective use of criminal justice resources, particularly detention capacity. Breaking the Cycle is a systemwide plan designed to identify and treat all defendants in need of substance abuse treatment. Principal elements of the plan include:

NIJ supports the Breaking the Cycle program at three sites - Birmingham, Alabama; Jacksonville, Florida; and Tacoma, Washington. The pilot Breaking the Cycle site in Birmingham, established in 1996, has already begun to show results. Substance abuse assessments that once were conducted six months after arrest are now completed within two days of arrest. The number of defendants on the project's active caseload has more that doubled - from 900 a month to over 1,800, and the median length of supervision has increased from about 150 days to 232 days.

In March 1999, NIJ expanded the Breaking the Cycle demonstration project to include the juvenile justice system. The City of Eugene, Oregon was awarded a two-year, $2 million award to implement the system-wide drug treatment and supervision initiative for juvenile arrestees.


Drug courts are another effective strategy for reducing drug-related crime. Drug courts use a "carrot and stick" approach to encourage non-violent, drug abusing offenders to stop the cycle of substance abuse and crime. Intensive supervision and sanctions are combined with the prospect of reduced charges or shorter sentences for offenders who successfully complete treatment and other requirements established by the judge. Although drug courts vary somewhat among communities, such courts typically involve active participation by judges, regular testing of offenders, and graduated sanctions. They also use a partnership approach that integrates drug treatment with other health and social services. As an alternative to traditional incarceration or probation, drug courts are an effective means to reduce drug use and recidivism and are less costly than traditional supervision.

In FY 1999, OJP's Drug Courts Program Office awarded more than $14 million to 147 jurisdictions to expand, enhance, or plan drug courts. OJP also provided nearly $20 million to 70 jurisdictions that applied for drug court implementation grants in FY 1998, but did not receive awards due to lack of funds.

Since the program's inception in FY 1995, OJP has made approximately 500 grants totaling more than $100 million to help jurisdictions plan, implement, enhance, or evaluate drug courts. There are now more than 350 drug courts operating in the United States-a number which has increased from approximately 30 when OJP's program started in FY 1995. In addition, there are more than 200 drug courts in the planning stages. For the first time, there is drug court activity in all 50 states. At least 14 states have enacted legislation that authorizes or funds drug courts, and several states are considering such measures.

DCPO also provides extensive training and technical assistance for drug court planners and practitioners. In FY 1999, DCPO sponsored 22 workshops attended by more than 1,300 people, and responded to more than 3,100 requests for technical assistance.


In December 1998, BJS released the study Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisoners, 1997. The report summarized the findings of surveys of state and federal prisoners on their drug involvement prior to incarceration, and their substance abuse treatment history both inside and outside prison. Key findings included:

All available data show that most prisoners' incarceration is correlated, at least in part, with substance abuse. Yet only a fraction of substance-abusing offenders in correctional facilities have access to much-needed treatment. To bridge the gap between the need for treatment and its availability, OJP directly and indirectly funds substance abuse treatment programs in prisons and jails. The primary grant program, Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) for State Prisoners, was authorized by the 1994 Crime Act. In FY 1999, OJP's Corrections Program Office awarded a total of $57.8 million to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and eligible territories under the RSAT program. Since the program began in FY 1996, OJP has awarded just over $173 million for substance abuse treatment in state prisons and local jails.

Programs funded by RSAT must be provided in residential treatment facilities set apart from the general correctional population. Each offender must participate in the program for a term of six months to a year, unless he or she drops out or is terminated. The programs should develop the inmate's cognitive, behavioral, social, vocational, and other skills to solve the substance abuse and related problems. States may use the funds for programs in state correctional facilities, or may make subgrants to local governments.

To ensure that gains made during treatment in prison continue after release, OJP requires that preference be given to programs with aftercare as an essential component. Aftercare services should involve coordination between the correctional treatment program and other human service and rehabilitation programs, such as education and job training, parole supervision, halfway houses, and self-help and peer group programs that may aid in rehabilitation.

Although programs such as aftercare are not eligible for RSAT funding, states are required to ensure coordination between correctional representatives and alcohol and drug abuse agencies at the state and, if appropriate, local levels. States should also coordinate substance abuse and mental health services for dual diagnosed offenders.


In July 1999, OJJDP and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) released a study showing that the costs of underage drinking in America totals more than $58 billion annually. Earlier research had shown that underage drinking is the nation's largest youth drug problem, killing 6.5 times more young people than all other illicit drugs combined. The study, Underage Drinking: Immediate Consequences and their Costs, indicated that raising the minimum purchase age for alcohol to 21 throughout the country has been a successful strategy for reducing alcohol use and preventing related problems. Since 1975, minimum drinking age laws have prevented more than 17,000 traffic fatalities. Today, all 50 states have minimum drinking age laws set at 21. However, despite tougher laws, minors still drink - and their drinking often results in serious health and social problems.

In FY 1999, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) awarded $360,000 to each state under the Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program, formerly known as the Combating Underage Drinking Program. States are using these funds to improve enforcement of laws prohibiting sales of alcohol to minors and for alcohol use prevention programs for youth. In addition to the formula grants, OJJDP also joined with MADD to support the expansion of MADD's Youth in Action program to 14 additional sites across the country. The Youth in Action campaign directly involves young people in policy and enforcement efforts to stem the tide of underage drinking. The campaign encourages youth groups to team up with law enforcement agencies to combat illegal alcohol sales to minors, conduct merchant compliance stings, curb fake IDs on the Internet, and raise public awareness about parental liability issues related to serving alcohol to minors.

Back to OJP FY 99 Annual Report