Drugs and the Justice System - The Relationship Between Drugsand Crime
related homicides homicide convicted
Despite the fact that drug use accounts for few fatalities per year, there is evidence to support a strong relationship between drug use and criminal behavior. There are two types of drug offenders: those who pass through the judicial system because they have violated drug laws and those who enter the system because they have committed a crime while under the influence of drugs or in order to get money to pay for drugs. These two themes frequently overlap.
There are usually three reasons given for the correlation between drugs and crime:
- Drugs may reduce inhibitions or stimulate aggression and interfere with the ability to earn legitimate income.
- Persons who develop a dependence on an illegal drug need a substantial income to pay for them and may commit crimes in order to fund their habit.
- Drug trafficking may lead to such crimes as extortion, aggravated assault, and homicide. Table 5.1 shows the number of homicides related to drugs from 1987 to 2003.
In Adult Patterns of Criminal Behavior (Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, 1996), University of Nebraska researchers Julie Horney, D. Wayne Osgood, and Ineke Haen Marshall studied 658 newly convicted male prisoners sentenced to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services during 1989-90. The researchers wanted to determine if changes in life circumstances, such as being unemployed or living with a wife or girl-friend, influenced their criminal behavior. Among their conclusions, they found that "use of illegal drugs was related to all four measures of offending (any crime, property crime, assault, and drug crime). For example, during months of drug use, the odds of committing a
property crime increased by 54%; the odds of committing an assault increased by over 100%. Overall, illegal drug use increased the odds of committing any crime sixfold."
According to the BJS, in Drug Use, Testing, and Treatment in Jails, published in May 2000, in 1998 an estimated 138,000 convicted jail inmates (36%) were under the influence of drugs at the time of the offense. An estimated 61,000 convicted jail inmates (13.3%) said they had committed their offense to get money for drugs. Of convicted property and drug offenders, about one in four had committed their crimes to get money for drugs.
The U.S. Department of Justice, using data from the Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), reported that in 2003, 4.6% of the 14,408 homicides in which circumstances were known were narcotics related, including those committed during drug trafficking or manufacturing. (See Table 5.1.)