More Imprisonment Does Not Reduce State Drug Problems

Pew-Charitable-TrustsThis report from The Pew Charitable Trusts examines whether stiff prison sentences for people who have violated drug laws deter drug misuse, distribution, and other drug-law violations. As the U.S. confronts a growing epidemic of opioid misuse, policymakers and public health officials need a clear understanding of whether, how, and to what degree imprisonment for drug offenses affects the nature and extent of the nation’s drug problems. To explore this question, The Pew Charitable Trusts examined publicly available 2014 data from federal and state law enforcement as well as from corrections and health agencies and found no statistically significant relationship between state drug imprisonment rates and three indicators of state drug problems: self-reported drug use, drug overdose deaths, and drug arrests.