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

NCJ Number
Sam Taxy; Julie Samuels; William Adams
Date Published
October 2015
10 pages
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).

Presents a description of drug offenders in federal prison, including criminal history, demographics, gun involvement in the offense, and sentence imposed. The report examines each characteristics by type of drug involved in the offense. It also examines demographic information for the entire federally sentenced population and discusses alternative methods for defining drug offenders. Data are from a linked file created with data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and United States Sentencing Commission.

  • This study is based on 94,678 offenders in federal prison at fiscal yearend 2012 who were sentenced on a new U.S. district court commitment and whose most serious offense (as classified by the Federal Bureau of Prisons) was a drug offense.
  • Almost all (99.5%) drug offenders in federal prison were serving sentences for drug trafficking.
  • Cocaine (powder or crack) was the primary drug type for more than half (54%) of drug offenders in federal prison.
  • Race of drug offenders varied greatly by drug type. Blacks were 88% of crack cocaine offenders, Hispanics or Latinos were 54% of powder cocaine offenders, and whites were 48% of methamphetamine offenders.
  • More than a third (35%) of drug offenders in federal prison at sentencing, had either no or minimal criminal history.