Sample Criminal Justice Research Proposal Paper on Prison Drug Addiction

Prison Drug Addiction


Substance abuse is a common problem that is affecting many of the prison inmates nationally and across the world. Several studies have shown that many of the prisoners who have a problem with drug addiction started using drugs before they got jailed. It means that at one point in their lives, the inmates had used drugs thus they find it hard to live without it. In the year 2009-10, it was reported that 37% of the total samples that were collected among the inmates revealed that they had in one occasion or another used illicit drug while in prison or before (Kevin, 2010). According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 53% of the prisoners abused and were depending heavily on the drugs. It has also been revealed that many of those inmates who were addicted to drugs had extensive records of crimes. The most common substance that the prisoners abused was marijuana (71.2%) and cocaine (43.3). 21% used stimulants while 25.9% used hallucinogens and methamphetamine (17.9) (Mumola & Karberg, 2006). However, it has been found that drug addiction among prisoners place heavy demands upon the criminal justice system, rehabilitation units and correction systems. On the other hand, the other inmates end up being affecting directly in one way or another.  Studies show that 48% of the prisoners who abuse drugs are placed under strong supervision whether they are on parole or probation. Typically, drug abusers present high safety, security, and health risks in prison (Feucht & Keyser, 2009). This is the reason drug addiction is considered as a serious problem that needs significant attention based on different levels. The purpose of this research is to collect information in a detailed manner to develop procedures to reduce drug use among inmates and provide a clearer picture on the impacts of drug addiction among inmates.

Literature Review

Drug addiction is the cause of most problems that occur within prison facilities including emotional outburst, violence and health problems. Based on a study conducted by Royuela, Montanari, Rosa, and Vicente (2014), they found that 90 percent of inmates who are addicted to using drugs find themselves struggling on a daily basis to cope with the prison culture. On a study conducted on 100 inmates in Denver prison who were addicted to drugs, they found that 90 of the inmates had a problem coping with prison culture which contributed to them addicted to drugs as a way to run away from reality. However, these individuals instead end up causing more problems to others and at times also put their lives at risk. According to Royuela, Montanari, Rosa and Vicente (2014), majority of the inmates who use drugs engage themselves in behaviors that are more dangerous. For instance, piercing, injecting of the body and tattooing which increased the risk of blood-borne virus transmission like human immunodeficiency virus and hepatitis C Virus. Diseases such as HIV was transmitted among inmates with drug problems because of sharing of the same needles to pierce, tattoo, or inject their bodies with drugs or during self-harm.

 In 2009, about 40% of the inmates addicted to drugs both males and females had shared injection material. The study conducted by Maria Kevin in 2009 also revealed that many of the inmates who are drug addicts have episodes of suicidal ideation while others harm themselves due to emotional distress. The study showed that about 57% of the inmates who use drugs had injected themselves with the same needles while others used knives and razor blades during their term in prison. Many of the prison drug addicts used methamphetamines or cocaine and engaged themselves in violent behaviors (Mumola & Karberg, 2006).

Another major impact that drug addiction has on criminal justice system is that it undermines the ways in which prisons and prisoners are controlled. Keysey, Feucht and Flaherty (2002) revealed that drug use prevented effective and safety operation within the environment which supposedly is being controlled by the guards. This is because the inmates who use drugs always have damaging behaviors making it hard to control them. Kevin (2010) found that many of the inmates who are addicts not only bribe the guards to get them drugs but also influence them to take control of majority of the illegal activities in prison. This not only places the lives of other inmates at a risk, it also exposes the prison guards as individuals who are corrupt.

Majority of the inmates acquire drugs through staff members, contractors and visitors and they have been considered by the criminal justice system and correction system as the greatest threat to successful elimination of drugs in prison. Efforts have been put to try and prosecute both the inmates and guards as a way to deal with drug supplication in prisons that leads to continued problems such as addiction. According to Keysey and Feucht (2009) several of the prisoners have been charged again for new drug offenses because of their addiction. It is one way which the government is using to ensure that drug use is controlled among the inmates and those found to be supplying it prosecuted.

Royuela, Montanari, Rosa, and Vicente (2014) relate threatening behaviors to mental illness which they found to be on the rise among the inmates addicted to drugs. Majority of these individuals with mental illness are a great threat to the population. A study conducted by Feucht and Keysey (2009) revealed that individuals with mental problems are suicidal and also threatens or harms other inmates.

According to Marlowe (2003), it is important to monitor these individuals to avoid self-destruction which is the leading cause of death among inmates in prison. This weighs the burden on the prison system because such kind of individuals not only needs special care, but also treatment. Keysey, Feucht and Flaherty (2002) have indicated in that there are approximately 1, 200 inmates who are send to Substance Abuse Treatment program every year. However, this treatment requires more time and money plus additional data which weigh heavily on government expenditure. The prison management has to identify the risky populations such as individuals with mental illness and use the accurate resources to treat them during parole period and even after their release to ensure that they do not relapse (Kevin, 2010). This is one way in which the government is targeting to fight drug and drug use within and outside the prison facilities.

Another major impact of drug addiction that requires special attention is drug overdose and drug relapse. According to Royuela, Montanari, Rosa and Vicente (2014), increased stress level within the prison facility can cause some individuals to end up overdosing themselves creating a potential risk of them dying. Based on their study, they found that even after being released from prison such kinds of individuals are taken to rehabilitation centers where they can deal with their addiction problems and boost their self esteem before being reinstated back in the community. Mathew found that it was important to identify any withdrawal symptoms among the prisoners before being received in prison. This is because withdrawal time is the most critical time that requires inmate care and to help manage the risk of self-harm.  Drug morbidity needs to be known to help arrange for special care for the inmates with drug addiction problems. However, by the year 2009-10, there was a steady reduction in the number of withdrawal rates upon reception in prison. It means that majority of individuals who used drugs in prison started it while behind bars and not before reception.

Royuela, Montanari, Rosa and Vicente (2014) found that most of the inmates with withdrawal symptoms had difficulty coping with the prison culture which led to their self harm or drug addiction because of the desire to continue using it. Kevin (2010) identified that majority of these individuals were placed under harm reduction programs where they could get support to get rid of their addiction. It is also one way to eliminate the dangerous behaviors among some inmates that leads to an increase in transmission of diseases, poor hygiene and suicidal attempts. According to Feucht, Keysey and Flaherty (2002) the main goal for enrolling inmates into the program is to sustain and create sobriety culture for the inmates, the staff members and the visitors. Clear policies have been set to ensure that there is consistency in all the institutions within the prison facility that deals with inmates with drug addiction problem.

The proposed study seeks to examine the prevalence of drug use among the Denver Co-inmates before and after implementation of new policies.


Feucht, T. E. & Keyser, A. (2009). Reducing drug addiction in prisons: Pennsylvania’s approach. National Institute of Justice Journal 1, 1-15.

Kevin, M. (2010). Drug use in the inmate population-prevalence, nature and context. DUIP NSW journal 1(52), 1-43

Keyser, A., Feucht, T. E., & Flaherty, R. (2002). Keeping the prison clean: An update on Pennsylvania drug control strategy. Corrections Today Journal, 1, 68-72. 

Marlowe, D. B. (2003). Integrating substance abuse treatment and criminal justice supervision. Sci Pract Perspect 2 (1), 4-14.

Mumola, C. & Karberg, J. (2006). Drug use and dependence, state and federal prisoners, 2004. Bureau of Justice Statistics Journal 1, 1-12.

Royuela, L., Montanari, L., Rosa, M. & Vicente, J. (2014). Drug use in prison: Assessment report. Journal for Drugs and Drug Addiction Monitoring Center 1, 1-35.

Przybylski, R. K. (2009). Correctional and sentencing reform for drug offenders: Research findings on selected key issues. Lakewood, CO: RKC Group. Retrieved from: