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Drug Offenders in Federal Prisons: Estimates of Characteristics Based on Linked Data

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2015
10 pages
Sam Taxy; Julie Samuels; William Adams
Publication Series
This report uses a new dataset that links the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) population at fiscal year-end 2012 with sentencing information from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) in describing the Federal prison population whose most serious offense was drug-related and who were serving time on a new U.S. district court commitment and also had valid links to USSC data (n = 94,678).
This linked data was necessary for this task because publicly available BOP datasets do not include information about prisoners' criminal history, offense details, and sentencing decisions. Almost all of the offenders in this sample (99.5 percent) were serving sentences for drug trafficking. Cocaine (powder or crack) was the primary trafficked drug type for 54 percent of the sample. The race of these offenders varied by the type of drug trafficked, with Blacks composing 88 percent of those prisoners trafficking crack cocaine, Hispanics or Latinos composing 54 percent of powder cocaine traffickers, and Whites composing 48 percent of methamphetamine traffickers. At sentencing, 35 percent of the sample had either no or minimal criminal histories; 24 percent used a weapon in their most recent offense; and the average prison sentence was just over 11 years. Across all drug types, traffickers in crack cocaine were most likely to have extensive criminal histories (40 percent), to have used a weapon in their most recent offense (32 percent), and to have longer prison terms (170 months). 11 tables

Date Created: October 27, 2015