Effects of substance abuse on prisoners in Austin, Texas

Effects of substance abuse on prisoners in Austin, Texas







In the United States, Texas has been noted to have the highest prison population. It is estimated that the minimum number of residents in Texas who are under the criminal justice supervision is about 740,905 (Texas Statistical Report, 2012). This is a very high number when compared to that of other States such as Washington D.C, which is at 571,641. This has to do with the fact that prisons in Texas are many. The high levels of prisoners in Austin-Texas are not a big issue than the challenges experienced by prisoners. The problems arise due to factors such as sexual and substance abuse within prisons. There is a high rate in consumption of drugs by inmates in prisons, which impact negatively on their health, and in the extreme cases lead to death. Substance abuse in Austin prisons is not a new trend, and it requires maximum attention, as the effects on the inmates are severe. Prisons are places meant to rehabilitate and reform the inmates, rather than to destroy them, in one way or the other.


There has been an increasing rate of substance abuse in Austin prisons. Substance abuse refers to a pattern of harmful and injurious use of drugs for mood altering purposes. In other words, it is the consumption of illicit drugs for purposes meant to interfere with the normal mental condition of an individual (Chang, 2010). Although there has been treatment for drug abusers since the 1970s, this has not changed the fact of drug abuse in prisons. Scientific research shows that this treatment can help many victims change their behaviors and attitudes towards drug abuse (Stover and Michels, 2010). There are various reasons associated with drug abuse in prisons. These factors stem from the relationship that exists between crime and drug abuse, which is widely known. Drug abuse is implicated in three kinds of offences related to drug. That is, offences related directly to drug abuse such as theft to get money for drugs, offences defined by drug sale or possession, and offences related to a way of life that disposes an individual (substance abuser) to engage in unlawful activities. This may take the form of associating with other lawbreakers or with illegitimate markets (Jennifer et al. 2012).

Substance abuse among prisoners in Austin is very dangerous due to the many negative impacts associated with it. The negative impacts of drug abuse affect the victim both socially and psychologically. The sociological and psychological effects of substance abuse on inmates in Austin are diverse ranging from mental illnesses to contraction of other diseases. In the extreme cases, substance abuse leads to death of the drug abuser. According to William and Daniel, 2005), inmates who engage in substance abuse in prisons are at a high risk of contracting chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDs, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases. This occurs especially when drug abusers engage in sexual behaviors influenced by drug abuse factor. The prevalence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS in prisons is very high, increasing the rate of risk of transmission. The other serious effect that substance abuse has on individuals is relapse. Relapse to drug abuse by offenders occurs especially when they are not treated, and this makes the offenders return to criminal behavior. Relapse can bring about re-arrest and re-incarceration of offenders, jeopardizing public health and taxing criminal justice system. Therefore, this does not only affect the criminal’s social life, but also impacts on the institutions involved negatively.

Most mental illnesses in prison are a result of substance and drug abuse (Hide et al. 2012). The mental psychology of substance abusers in prisons is disturbed by intoxication. This can make the individual to become insane or interfere with the logical thinking of the individual. Substance abuse can make the individual to alter his moods and change his or her attitudes and behaviors towards a particular thing. In most cases, even when substance abusers are released from prisons, most have a problem with health which affect their lives in all aspects including economic and social. According to research, two-thirds of prisoners who report back to prison consume alcohol or drug prior to incarceration (Hide et al. 2012). Many of the prisoners who return back to the community do not receive health services, and this contributes to instability making them engage in criminal activities that see them back to prisons. The families of drug abusers are mostly affected especially emotionally and economically in supporting their relative. Due to the many negative abuse associated with drug abuse in prisons, there is a dire need for intervention of stakeholders at all levels to fight against substance abuse. Although there are programs and policies established by the criminal justice system in Texas to deal with drug abusers, it seems like they are not sufficient. This is so because cases of substance abuse and their negative impacts have not reduced.

Justification and purpose of the study

Substance abuse is a current issue in criminal justice system of Texas. Although the issue had earlier existed, the form and mode of substance abuse in prisons have advanced and changed, making it a major issue of concern in Texas. The study is therefore very important considering the region has the highest prison population. The effects of substance abuse in prisons come with great challenges for the victims, families of the substance abusers as well as for the institutions concerned. It cannot therefore be ignored as an issue that affects an individual affects the society as a whole since people are what make the society. The study will be of great significance in addressing the effects that substance abuse has on drug abusers as well as suggesting ways to fight against substance abuse.

Research Methods

The study on effects of substance use in prison can take both the qualitative and quantitative forms of research. This being the case therefore, the study will apply both the qualitative and quantitative methods to collect and analyze data. The main objective of the study is to determine the effects of substance use on inmates in Austin. Interviews will be conducted on individuals who are willing to give information in prisons as well as rehabilitation centers in order to collect a wide range of data. Questionnaires will also be used in cases where interviews will not be possible.

Data will be analyzed using both descriptive and quantitative methods. In this case, therefore, tables, pie charts, as well as graphs will be used to analyze data and they will represent frequencies as well as percentages of issues being analyzed. Hypothesis will be tested using mathematical methods (chi-square) to determine the relationship between variables. The use of all these methods will ensure that the objectives of the study are achieved which is the most important thing in any research.

Literature Review

The number of inmates in the prison US prisons has continued to increase with about 2 million people imprisoned (Neubauer, 2012). The issue of incarceration in the United States is faced with a number of challenges due to the high numbers of Blacks, Latin Americans, and Native Americans. According to Stuntz, (2011), this has been met with many questions concerning the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in the US. Texas has the highest prison population. This being the case, Austin its capital City is of major concern. According to Jennifer et al. (2012), there are many problems faced by inmates in most prisons in Austin, ranging from social to psychological problems. Some of these problems arise because of under-provision of programs and policies by the criminal justice system.

Substance abuse in prisons is widely spread among many inmates (Texas Statistical Report, 2012). Despite the negative impacts that it brings, some inmates continue to abuse drugs for personal or other reasons. This has been associated with under-provision of treatment for drug abusers in prisons, which make them, engage in this activity that deteriorates their health as well as their social lives. It has been noted that approximately 85% of prisoners in the US meet the criteria for diagnosis in drug abuse (Frakt, 2012). This is because this population has a problem of substance abuse. Texas has a wide range of correctional facilities, and this are meant to change the individual’s behavior as well as attitudes towards actions that may have led him or her to engage in criminal activities. In this case, therefore, inmates’ behaviors should be changed for their wellbeing as well as the betterment of the entire society (Joseph and Emilie, 2010). It has been noted that substance abuse has many negative impacts on inmates in Austin Prisons.

Some of the negative impacts of substance abuse are related to the high risk of transmission of diseases such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases (William and Daniel, 2005). Substance abuse may dispose the individual to engage in risky sexual behaviors, which can lead to contraction of chronic diseases that are transmitted sexually. Bearing in mind that there is the prevalence of HIV/AIDs in prisons, the risk of transmission is also very high. As people with drug influence have interfered with their psychology, this makes it easier for them to engage in risky sexual behaviors. Apart from the sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse brings about mental illnesses, which at the extreme cases lead to death of the victims (Hide et al. 2012). It has been estimated that there The number of people suffering from mental illness and instability is twice higher in jails and prisons than in psychiatric hospitals in the United States (Davis, 2003). This causes other challenges, as sicknesses require medical attention, which may be costly for individuals with economic problems. Substance abuse creates problems to the family of drug abusers, as they are the ones that mostly bear the burden of catering for medical costs of the drug abuser. Economic problems create other problems that are social in nature. Lack of treatment may lead to relapse and the individual may end up committing other crimes, which means his or her social life will be that of a prisoner which adds no value to the individual and the society (Stover and Michels, 2010). The study is therefore, very important in addressing the effects of substance abuse on prisoners in Austin.


Effects of substance abuse on inmates of Austin are diverse and impact on the individual and society negatively. Inmates have a right to receive treatment for their drug addiction comparable to the treatment that exists in the community (Stover and Michels, 2010). The treatment should be one that gives maximum benefits to the drug user to become a helpful person to the society. There are programs and treatment that have worked for various victims of substance abuse, and these should be adopted in the criminal justice system in Texas.








Frakt, A. (2012). Under-provision of substance use treatment in prisons. The Incidental Economist, 9(8), 119.

Joseph, P., & Emilie, B. (2010). Risk of Reincarceration Among Prisoners with Co-occurring Severe Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders. . Administration & Policy in Mental Health & Mental Health Services Research, 37(4), 367-374.

William, K., Tammy, M., & Daniel, M. (2005). Juvenile Referals in Texas: An      Assessment of  Criminogenic Needs and the Gap Between Needs and Services . Prison Journal, 85(4), 467-489.

Stuntz, William J. (2011). The Collapse of American Criminal Justice. Mass: Belknap Press of      Harvard University Press. Cambridge.

Hide, Y., Lambert, M., Hyunzee, J., & Solveig, S. (2012). Positive Family Social Support: Counteracting Negative Effects of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse to Reduce Jail Ex-inmate Recidivism Rates. . Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 22(2), 130-147.

Jennifer, P., George, J., & Paul, M. (2012). Hide, Y., Lambert, M., Hyunzee, J., & Solveig, S. (2012). Positive Family Social Support: Counteracting Negative Effects of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse to Reduce Jail Ex-inmate Recidivism Rates. . Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 22(2), 130-147. . Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 51(1/2), 78-95.

Chang, C. (2010). The Impact of Implementing Smoking Bans Among Incarcerated Substance Users: A Qualitative Study. . Evaluation & The Health Professions, 33(4), 473-479.

Davis, Angela Y (2003). Are Prisons Obsolete? Turnaround Publisher Services Ltd: Canada

Neubauer, David W (2011). America’s Courts and the Criminal Justice System. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Belmont, CA:

Stover, H., & Michels, I. (2010). Drug use and opioid substitution treatment for prisoners. Harm Reduction Journal, 7(17), 153-158.

Statistical Report. (2012, September 6). Crime Statistics, The University of Texas at Austin Police Department (UTPD). Home | The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved November 17, 2012, from http://www.utexas.edu/police/reports/statistics/


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