Office of National Drug Control Policy

Chapter 4. Break the Cycle of Drug Use, Crime, Delinquency, and Incarceration

Chapter Table of Contents


Decades of research and experience have shown that drugs and crime are inextricably linked. In 2009, more than 7 million individuals were under supervision by the criminal justice system: 2,284,900 offenders incarcerated, more than 1.5 million in state and Federal prisons, and more than 5 million offenders supervised in the community, of which 819,308 were on parole. Survey data from 2004 indicate that over half of state and Federal inmates used drugs during the month preceding the offense corresponding to their sentence, and nearly one-third of state prisoners and a quarter of Federal prisoners used drugs at the time of the offense.

This Strategy calls for a stop to the revolving door of the criminal and juvenile justice systems by addressing not only the offenders’ criminal activities, but, equally important, their underlying substance abuse problems. The Strategy outlines a spectrum of approaches and initiatives, from pre-trial diversion and alternatives to incarceration, to reentry efforts that can be implemented at the local and state levels in order to change how drug-related crime and substance-abusing offenders are addressed. The 2011 Strategy seeks to broaden these efforts, continuing to promote innovative and evidence-based practices, as well as supporting the need to tailor these initiatives to specific populations.

Principle 1. Provide Communities with the Capacity to Prevent Drug- Related Crimes

Drug Market Interventions (DMI)

This Administration strongly supports community-based strategies, such as Drug Market Intervention programs, which have shown promise in disrupting violence and other drug-related problems. Overt drug markets, such as public street-corner dealing or drug houses, are among the most toxic of public safety problems. They are responsible for a host of social problems: the initiation into drug use and addiction; drawing local youth into the drug trade; the acquisition and use of firearms; and the loss of control of public space.

A number of communities, discouraged by the cycle of drug dealing and violence, followed this new multipronged operational plan. DMI directly engages drug dealers, their families, and communities to address these problems by creating clear and predictable sanctions, offering a range of community services, improving community-police relations, and establishing community standards for acceptable behavior.

Communities implementing DMI have seen positive results, and rigorous evaluations have shown significant crime reductions. A recent analysis of DMI implementation in High Point, North Carolina, the first site, indicated that the target area experienced a substantial decline in violent (30.6%) and drug-related crime (32.2%). In Rockford, Illinois, property crime declined by 24 percent and in Nashville, Tennessee, drug crime declined by 39.5 percent. In all three communities, interviews with local residents revealed a perceived decline in crime and disorder, reported improvement in the quality of neighborhood life, and appreciation for the police.

Providence, Rhode Island, Drug Market Intervention

In 2006, the Providence Police Department implemented a Drug Market Intervention (DMI) in the Lockwood section of Providence. A year after its implementation, calls for police service went down 58 percent, reported drug crime 70 percent, and drug calls to police 81 percent.

Due to its success in Lockwood, the DMI model was implemented in another part of the city, the Chad Brown Public Housing Projects. That site had long been the scene of overt drug dealing and gang warfare and, in June of 2009, after careful crime mapping, the Providence Police Department began their drug investigation, targeting the cocaine-trafficking hierarchy from the major players to the street dealers. After identifying 16 dealers at Chad Brown, the detectives prepared arrest warrants but did not execute them immediately. A team of law enforcement officers and a prosecutor then reviewed each pending warrant, and 13 of the dealers were excluded from participation because of past criminal history. The remaining three low-level offenders were selected for the intervention (or “call-in”), in which family members, representatives from the faith-based community, social workers, and a number of other community organizations pleaded with them to end their disruptive actions. Ultimately, the offenders were presented with the option to continue dealing and face prosecution, or agree to change. Two of the three agreed to change.

While this intervention was similar to the DMI in Lockwood, its scope was broadened to include follow-up services for offenders and the community. Lt. Daniel Gannon, who was in command of the area, noted that the police recognized the neighborhood needed positive alternatives to discourage its next generation from repeating the actions of the arrested drug dealers.

Additional measures were taken to engage local youth and to maintain the DMI’s momentum. One such measure was “Night Vision”, which, for the first time, opened a local recreation center at night and organized positive activities for the youth. Within a short time, police officers were seen where the drug dealers used to gather, and park benches, a new playground, and a water park were installed. The Providence Police Department also wanted to address the historical tension that existed between police and residents of Chad Brown. “It took a full 6 months before any of them would even talk to me,” Lt. Gannon recalls, “there was that much distrust.” However, Gannon persisted, visiting the complex on a daily basis and gradually building the trust and relationships to openly discuss their differences. Statistics kept by the police department show that reports of crime have plummeted in Chad Brown. One year following the DMI, violent crime was down 76 percent, property crime down 23 percent, and all other crime, including drug-related crime, down 23 percent.

In 2011, BJA will provide training and technical assistance for DMI implementation to seven new sites throughout the United States. In FY 2010, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) initiated an evaluation of the BJA DMI Training and Technical Assistance Initiative. The evaluation includes rigorous process, outcome, and impact assessments of the DMI training, technical assistance, and implementation at 12 sites selected by BJA. The study will also assess the impact of DMI on various types of crime, and survey communities to examine if DMI increases community cohesion, law enforcement legitimacy, and perceptions of community safety. This evaluation will provide a comprehensive assessment of the effects of DMI training, technical assistance, and implementation at these sites. By funding these initiatives, BJA and NIJ are enabling DMIs to spread to other jurisdictions, lowering crime and recidivism rates and improving public safety. Based on the evaluation, BJA will create a best practices model for
implementing DMI. (Action Item 4.1A)

Principle 2. Develop Infrastructure to Promote Alternatives to Incarceration When Appropriate

Fair Sentencing Act

The Administration is committed to the fair and equal application of the Nation’s laws. Laws and policies that treat all Americans equally should be promoted, which will increase public confidence in the criminal justice system. In recognition of these principles, the President signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010. Prior to the Fair Sentencing Act, the disparity in sentencing between offenses for crack cocaine and powder cocaine was 100-to-1. The Fair Sentencing Act dramatically reduces the disparity and marks the first time in 40 years that Congress has reduced a mandatory minimum sentence. (Action Item 4.2D)

Institutional Change

Providing a variety of interventions within the criminal justice system is critical to decreasing recidivism. Educating key leaders within the system on the science of addiction and models for system change can lead to a more systemic approach incorporating these varied interventions. Accordingly, several Federal partners have developed the National Judicial Leadership Program - Systems Change Initiative. This program will be offered to presiding judges in 2011 by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, NIDA, and BJA in partnership with the National Judicial College and the Center for Health and Justice at Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC).

In addition, TASC will conduct trainings and provide technical assistance to leader judges on its intensive case management model for drug offenders. The model is based on in-depth assessments for developing individualized service plans that connect these individuals to the proper intervention and treatment. Institutional change within the criminal justice system requires collaboration with entities outside that system. For example, an offender in the criminal justice system can be involved simultaneously in the child welfare, mental health, and workforce development systems. A multi-system approach strengthens the response to the offender’s needs and lessens the chance of recidivism. Therefore, BJA and SAMHSA are collaborating to address public health in the criminal justice system. SAMHSA is expanding screening for co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders in offender populations, an important step in providing the proper treatment to offenders. BJA is expanding reentry support nationwide through its Second Chance Act grants, training state, local, and tribal governments to provide ex-offenders with key skills and support to enable their successful reintegration into society. (Action Items 4.3D and 4.4A)

Court-Based Strategies and Programs

Drug courts are a proven method for addressing substance-abusing offenders. Currently, there are over 2,500 drug courts in the United States.88 Drug courts promote treatment approaches rather than traditional incarceration for non-violent offenders drawn into the criminal justice system because of substance abuse-related problems. They reduce recidivism and save money at all levels of government.

In FY 2010, BJA, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and SAMHSA awarded nearly $76 million in grants to enhance the court services, coordination, and substance abuse treatment capacity of adult and juvenile drug treatment courts. This funding will enable further improvement to existing courts and support the implementation of new courts. (Action Item 4.2B) In 2009, BJA and NIJ jointly funded the Adult Drug Court Research-to-Practice (R2P) Initiative to promote the timely dissemination of relevant information from this growing body of research to practitioners and policymakers. Forthcoming is a webinar on target populations based on NIJ’s Multi-site Adult Drug Court Evaluation and other current research.

The Obama Administration also supports community courts—neighborhood-based courts that address livability problems, targeting non-violent quality-of-life crimes, while providing immediate defendant accountability to the community. These community courts involve stakeholders both within and outside of the justice system, including community residents, businesses, schools, and religious leaders. The courts proactively address local public safety concerns with community-based and community-designed solutions to the problems while providing necessary services to the offenders. In an effort to spread best practices to jurisdictions throughout the country, the Center for Court Innovation and BJA hosted the first International Conference of Community Courts in 2010 and are currently working with three community courts in Dallas, Hartford (Connecticut), and Seattle to serve as regional mentors for other jurisdictions on community court issues.

Following the success of the drug court model, Judge Robert Russell created the first Veterans Treatment Court in Buffalo, New York. Currently, the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court is collaborating with Erie Community College to provide educational and vocational training for Veterans associated with the drug court. One innovative program at the college trains veterans to become substance abuse counselors, many of whom return to the drug court as mentors. In addition, the Veterans Drug Court is working with the VA to connect eligible Veterans with home loans, medical benefits, and other services intended to help their reentry to the community. Because of Judge Russell’s vision, veterans treatment courts are now being promoted to serve our Nation’s Veterans. Through a coordinated response involving the Department of Veterans Affairs, state Veterans Affairs Agencies, volunteer Veteran mentors, and support organizations for Veterans and their families, 65 Veterans courts are now operational nationwide. Veterans treatment courts are successfully promoting sobriety, recovery, and stability for our Nation’s Veterans.

To further spur the growth of this promising initiative, BJA funded the development, pilot, and expansion of the Veterans Treatment Court Planning Initiative. VA, the National Drug Court Institute, and numerous Veterans treatment court professionals collaborated to develop curriculum for this new initiative. This is the first Veterans treatment court training program in the Nation. Eleven Veterans court teams were trained at the inaugural event at Judge Russell’s Buffalo court in September 2010, and an additional ten teams were trained in Santa Ana County, California, in February 2011.

Women and Girls

Between 2000 and 2009, the number of men in prison grew by 16 percent, while the number of incarcerated women grew by 22 percent. Incarcerated women in treatment are significantly more likely than incarcerated men to have severe substance abuse histories, as well as co-occurring physical health and psychological problems. Women are also more likely to be victims of physical or sexual abuse, which contribute to drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and criminal activity. Because of this, there is a growing recognition of the need for gender-specific risk assessments and gender-responsive and trauma-informed substance use treatment services for women. Correctional facilities and community corrections systems are starting to implement these programs; however, they should be implemented and made available to more women offenders.

Also, women offenders are often primary caregivers for their children. An estimated 62 percent of female inmates in state prisons and 56 percent in Federal prisons are parents of minor children. In addition, national survey data for 2002 through 2008 estimate that more than one quarter of the 5.3 million adults on probation or parole (approximately 1.5 million) live with at least one child aged 17 or younger, demonstrating a significant need for specialized services and support upon release and reentry into the community. Women offenders with children would benefit from sentencing alternatives to incarceration, expansion of family-based treatment, improved conditions of maternal incarceration, and increased support for programming focused on parent-child relationships during a mother’s sentence.

New Action Item: Improve Intervention and Treatment Services for Female Offenders in the Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems [ONDCP, DOJ/National Institute of Corrections (NIC)]

ONDCP will work with the Women and Trauma Federal Partners’ Committee to support interventions (including sentencing alternatives to incarceration, expansion of family-based treatment, improved conditions of maternal incarceration, and increased support for programming focused on parent-child relationships during a mother’s sentence) and work to incorporate these issues into Federal programs and funding requests.

Military Personnel, Veterans, and their Families

While the use of illicit drugs remains rare in the military, the misuse of prescription drugs has increased dramatically in the past 5 years. A 2008 Department of Defense (DOD) survey revealed that 11.9 percent of active duty military personnel reported current illicit drug use, including non-medical use of prescription drugs. Largely due to regular testing, the use of illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine is rare among active duty military. The percentage reporting prescription drug misuse (11.5%) is more than double that of the civilian population in the age group 18-64 (4.4%) Furthermore, upon retirement or discharge from the military, the injuries or trauma experienced during their service can lead to drug use and other negative behaviors.

In recognizing the profound importance of ensuring the health and well being of our servicemen, servicewomen, and their families, the President directed his Cabinet and the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to develop a government-wide approach to supporting military families. Enhancing the psychological and behavioral health of military families was the first identified priority and, to that end, the Administration has generated a comprehensive strategy to improve and expand support services available for active-duty Armed Forces, the National Guard, and the Reserves.

New Action Item: Examine Interventions and Treatment Services for Veterans within the Criminal Justice System [ONDCP, DOD, VA, HHS/SAMHSA, DOJ]

ONDCP, in partnership with DOD, VA, HHS/SAMHSA, DOJ, and other stakeholders, is taking steps to address Veterans within the criminal justice system. The role of traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in substance abuse and mental health will be more fully examined in the Veterans treatment court initiative. This is just one of many initiatives designed to reduce the burdens that multiple deployments, combat injuries and trauma, the challenges of reintegration, and substance abuse can have on military families.

New Action Item: Connect Incarcerated Veterans with Critical Substance Abuse and Reentry Services [VA, ONDCP, DOJ/Bureau of Prisons (BOP)]

Every year, approximately 40,000 Veterans are released from incarceration. Many of these Veterans have significant substance abuse or mental health issues which, if left untreated, contribute to homelessness, further criminal behavior, and drastically reduce the likelihood for successful reentry into their community.

The VA estimates that there are currently approximately 150,000 Veterans imprisoned and 40,000 released each year. Through the Healthcare for Reentry Veterans Program, VA conducts pre-release assessments with Veterans six months prior to their release from prison so that upon release they are connected to critical services, including substance abuse treatment. They are conducting this work in 72 percent of U.S. prisons. In the past three years, they have assisted nearly 25,000 Veterans. Approximately 45 percent of them access VA outpatient services in their first year out of prison. Accessing this population for assessment and release planning at an earlier stage of their incarceration would increase successful reentry. For this reason, in 2011, ONDCP and VA will explore opportunities to identify incarcerated Veterans with substance use disorders and conduct reentry planning at an earlier phase of their incarceration to give them the necessary treatment and other services immediately upon their release, thus increasing the possibility for successful reentry.

American Indians/Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) living in the United States face a host of challenges surrounding drug use and criminal justice. In addition to significantly higher current illicit drug use rates, AI/AN populations demonstrate higher rates for substance dependence or abuse (15.5%) than any other demographic group. AI/AN communities also experience violent crime (101 violent crimes per 1,000 AI/AN) at far higher rates than other Americans (41 per 1,000 persons) - more than twice the rate for the U.S. Furthermore, AI/AN victims are more likely than all victims to report an offender who was under the influence of alcohol or drug use at the time of the crime (70%). Overall, about 62 percent of American Indian victims experienced violence by an offender using alcohol, compared to 42 percent for the national average.

New Action Item: Address the Issue of Drug Use and Drug-Related Crime for American Indian/Alaska Natives. [ONDCP, DOJ/OJP]

The significant problems of drug use and drug-related crime in tribal regions throughout the Nation pose a critical challenge for Federal, state, local, and tribal leadership. In 2011, ONDCP and OJP will consult with tribal leaders, including the National Congress of American Indians and United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), to develop a plan to tackle some key issues regarding drug use and crime and to discuss their role in the involvement of Native American and Alaskan Natives in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

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