Race Statistics, Drug Addiction and Prison

February 16, 2011

What do the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Human Rights Watch have in common? They are all releasing research that explores the use of drugs among different races and the racial representation among prison inmates, especially those sentenced to prison for drug abuse and addiction.

Race and Drug Abuse Statistics

The most recent statistics say that there is a definite demarcation among races when it comes to the use of illicit drugs. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the percentage of those currently abusing illegal drugs in different races breaks down as:

  • Asians: 3.6 percent
  • Those reporting two or more races: 14.7 percent
  • African Americans: 10.1 percent
  • American Indian or Alaska Natives: 9.5 percent
  • Caucasian: 8.2 percent
  • Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 7.3 percent
  • Hispanic: 6.2 percent

Race and Prison Incarceration Statistics

There was a notable difference among races as well when looking at the prison system. According to the USDOJ and Bureau of Justice Statistics, the more recent numbers are as follows:

  • Caucasian men: 773 men per 100,000
  • Caucasian women: 95 women per 100,000
  • African American men: 4618 per 100,000
  • African American women: 348 per 100,000
  • Hispanic men: 1747 per 100,000
  • Hispanic women: 146 per 100,000

These numbers show that, compared to the number of men in the population, an African American male is about six times and Hispanic men are twice as likely to go to prison as Caucasian men. Put another way, the chances of going to prison in 2001 for a black male was at about 32 percent, 17 percent for Hispanic men, and just under 6 percent for Caucasian men. Among females, black women had almost the same chance of going to jail as a white man while Hispanic females had about a 2 percent chance and Caucasian women were at less than 1 percent.

Drug Offenders in Prison Across Races

Human Rights Watch shows the disparity among the races in terms of rates of incarceration and drug abuse most starkly by comparing races of drug offenders imprisoned for their crimes of drug dealing, possession, and behaviors under the influence while in possession of an illegal substance.

About two-thirds of arrest for drug-related offenses end in a conviction for the accused and about two-thirds of those convictions will serve time in jail or prison for their offenses. Black men represent only a third of drug arrests but almost half of drug felony convictions. Of these about 71 percent received jail or prison sentences as compared to 63 percent of convicted white drug offenders.

Drug Addiction Treatment Versus Prison Time

No matter the race of the individual, other studies show that the best way to help someone break free from the cycle of drug addiction that continually imprisons them is to get the drug addiction treatment they need to recover. Some jails and prison systems incorporate this into their programs, but not enough and few do so on a comprehensive enough scale. In other cases, drug rehab is the sentence with a prison sentence pending if the drug offender does not comply. This has shown to have great success, especially when the patient is allowed access to private, residential drug rehab.

If you have been convicted of a drug-related offense and you would like to avoid future problems with the law, the best thing you can do is show a judge that you are determined to get better and enroll in a drug addiction treatment program. Contact us today to learn how you can do just that.

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