The number of people convicted in state courts of drug-related felonies leaped by 69 percent over two years, according to Justice Department research.
About one-third of the 667,400 people convicted of felonies in state courts two years ago - about 227,000 people - were found guilty of drug trafficking or possession, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report released Sunday.In 1986, just under one-fourth of the 582,800 felony convicts, or about 134,000 people, had been found guilty of drug-related offenses, according to information provided by bureau statistician Patrick A. Langan.
"It's certainly what one would expect these days," said Langan, who wrote the report with fellow bureau statistician John M. Dawson.
The states apparently were cracking down on drug offenders long before the Bush administration began exhorting them to do so, the report indicates.
Felony convictions for drug trafficking increased from 13 percent to 17 percent of the total felony convictions from 1986 to 1988, the report found. At the same time, drug possession felony convictions rose from 10 percent to 17 percent of the total, Langan said.
Drug-related cases represented 23 percent of the felony convictions in 1986 and 34 percent in 1988. Given the larger number of total felony convictions two years ago, the increase in drug-related felony convictions amounted to 69 percent.
This was occurring as the total number of felony convictions in state courts was increasing at the much lower rate of 14.5 percent, the report says.
Langan said he believed the increase in drug-related felony convictions was due to an increase in lawbreaking and arrests, not to new laws targeting a greater range of behavior.