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National Assessment of Criminal Justice System Finds Drug Case Overload


October 1995

A new survey of criminal justice administrators finds that drugs are clogging the system and hindering the adjudication of other cases (Tom McEwen, National Assessment Program: 1994 Survey Results, June 1995, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, NCJ #150856).

The National Assessment Program surveys 2,500 directors of criminal justice agencies every three years to assess the needs and problems of practitioners. The survey is sent to police chiefs, sheriffs, jail administrators, prosecutors, public defenders, judges, trial court administrators, and probation and parole directors.

Among the findings in the 84-page report are that drug cases appear to be the primary cause of workload problems in all segments of the criminal justice system:

"Drug Crime Contributes to Workload Problems"

Type of Drug Crime

Police Chiefs Sheriffs Prosecutors Public Defenders Judges

Drug Possession

94.6% 94.6% 91.4% 87.7% 83.6%

Drug Sales

91.9% 89.7% 92.5% 93.8% 86.2%

While most agencies indicated that drug treatment facilities were available as alternative sentencing, more than 80% of respondents characterized the resources as inadequate.

Almost all (324 of 337) police departments said they operate a drug abuse education program in schools. The majority of those respondents said the programs needed no improvement. More sheriffs responded that their drug abuse education program needed improvement (53%, with 252 of 265 respondents reporting operation of a school drug education program).

Of responding police forces, almost all reported operating specific anti-drug programs:

asset forfeiture                    98%
"buy and bust" operations           94%
directed patrol activities          94%
drug neighborhood watch programs    91%
drug organized crime unit           85%
civil enforcement                   77%

[To obtain a copy of this report, contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) at Box 6000, Rockville, MD, 20849-6000, 1-800-851-3420, email: Ask for NCJ #150856.]