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BJS Study of Felons, 1994:
One Third are Drug Offenders


February 1997

Drug offenders accounted for almost a third of the 872,200 felons convicted in state courts during 1994, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported on January 12 (Patrick A. Langan and Jodi M. Brown, "Felony Sentences in State Courts, 1994" (NCJ-163391), U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, January 1997; Associated Press, "Drug, property crimes led to most state felony convictions in 1994," Chicago Tribune, January 13, 1997, s. 1, p. 3).

Drug possession offenses accounted for 12.5% and drug trafficking made up 19% of all state felony convictions throughout the country in 1994. 48% of the felons convicted of drug trafficking were sent to a state prison, 23% were sent to a jail and 29% were given probation without incarceration. Of those convicted of felony drug possession, 34% were sent to prison, 32% to jail and 34% were given probation. Prisons are institutions housing convicts sentenced to longer terms and are usually run by states. Jails house accused persons, as well as convicts sentenced to shorter sentences, and are usually run by counties or large cities.

The number of state criminal convictions in 1994 is a decline from the 893,600 total in 1992, but was higher than the total of 667,400 in 1988, when BJS first conducted the survey. In 1994, 89% of state convicted felons pleaded guilty. Felons who were sentenced to a state prison during 1994 had an average sentence of six years, but were likely to serve about 38% (about two years) of that term. 45% of state felons were sentenced to prison in 1994, relatively unchanged from 44% in 1988. The average sentence to a local jail was six months and the average term of probation was a little more than three years. In addition, fines were imposed on 21% of the convicted felons, restitution on 18% and community service on 7%. Treatment was ordered for 7% of the felons.

People in their twenties comprised about 20% of the adult population in the United States but 43% of the state convicted felons. Half the convicted state felons were 29 years old or older. 51% of the convicted felons were white and 48% were black.

The report can be obtained from the BJS fax-on-demand service at (301) 251-5550 or calling the BJS Clearinghouse on (800) 732-3277. The report is located at