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Attenuation of "Drug War" Efforts in Texas: Public Demand vs. State Policy

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime and Justice Volume: 15 Issue: 1 Dated: (1992) Pages: 137- 156
R J Hunter; J W Marquart; S J Cuvelier
Date Published
20 pages
This study examines how the Texas State government has responded to the public's demand for increased punitiveness for drug offenses and what has been the resulting level of service delivery.
The study examined the number and types of drug offenders received into the Texas prison system as indicators of governmental response to the drug problem in the State and compared these to the actual prison time served by drug offenders as an indicator of the level of service delivery. The sentence and release dates were obtained for the 31,798 inmates convicted of any felony drug offense as their primary charge from 1980 through 1989. Drug offense categories encompassed possession, distribution, sale, and manufacture of, and illegal investment in, marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine, heroin/morphine, and methamphetamine. Between 1980 and 1989 the demographic characteristics of the incarcerated drug-offender population of Texas indicated that it was 40.7 percent white, 33.3 percent African-American, and 25.5 percent Hispanic. Findings suggest a racial stratification related to the type of drug involved in the offense. Whites were generally involved with hallucinogens and amphetamines, Hispanics with heroin/morphine and marijuana, and African-Americans with cocaine. Male offenders outnumbered female offenders by a wide margin in all categories. The majority of imprisoned drug offenders were between the ages of 24 and 41. The mean sentence length for drug offenders increased from approximately 6 years in 1980 to approximately 9 years in 1989, although actual time served for felony drug offenses decreased from approximately 2.5 years to a low of approximately 14 months over the decade. The findings indicate that although the "war" on drugs was successful from a law enforcement and adjudication perspective (more offenders arrested and convicted with longer prison sentences), the correctional system is increasingly incapable of housing drug offenders for longer terms due to the lack of bed space. Thus, the number of offenders removed from the street has been offset by their rapid return to the street from prison. 1 table, 6 figures, and 14 references


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