THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY GENERAL BARRY MCCAFFREY
The Briefing Room
1:00 P.M. EST
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: The President will have an announcement at 2:20 p.m. dealing with the whole notion of drugs and prison. And we're going to capitalize on a first-rate study done by Columbia University's -- Joe Califano -- which was released last week that talks about the terrible problem of the, arguably, 50 percent to 80 percent of the prison populations who are behind bars for a drug-related, alcohol-related reason.
And so the larger issue is the requirement to zone in on those who are under criminal justice control, put them in treatment which includes mandatory testing, and then move them to follow-on halfway house facilities. And that's the big issue we're going to try and work.
Now, having said that, one of the associated problems is drugs which are in the prison place. We've got 1.6 million men and women who are behind bars, and of that number -- we just did a fairly widespread 1997 drug testing program -- some 9 percent tested positive for drugs behind bars. Now, the federal system is pretty good, but pretty good is relative -- it means 2 percent of those federal prisoners tested positive while incarcerated. And up, much higher numbers in the state and local jail system.
So the bottom line to what we intend to do is somehow jail time has to be cold turkey for those who are addicted, and must represent unemployment for those who are drug dealers. Now, we're going to go about this in several different ways. One of them is we've got $197 million which will be in the '99 budget related to this issue, and a whole series of programs, probably the most important one of which we call Break the Cycle. It's an $85 million program which includes both testing and drug intervention.
We've been testing it down in Alabama and we are, hopefully, going to proliferate that now to other jurisdictions. We're also going to provide some $72 million in residential substance abuse treatment block grants for the states to try and get at the treatment requirement. And then there will be other monies to include $30 million for the drug court program, which is, as some of you may be aware, exploding in significance. It started some three years ago with seven drug courts; now we're up to 200 plus. We have funded the drug court institution and we hope to see that get up to about 1,000 drug courts shortly after the turn of the century.
So the bottom line is drugs in prisons, how do you provide a mandatory coercive environment where the options are test positive, stay in treatment, or don't get out of the slammer. And the President will have three parts of what he's going to announce. I'll let him make that announcement at 2:20 p.m. Let me just respond to your own questions.
Q How are they getting all these drugs?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: A combination of inappropriate controls over staff, inappropriate controls over visitors to the facilities. And if you get down in the local jail system, possibly other ways.
But I think the legitimate question is, why do we have so little control, particularly under local jails and state prisons so we can't keep prohibited substances out of the --
Q Well, what can the federal government do about local conditions? You have no power there?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, again, I'm going to leave the President's announcement to him, but we can do things in that we can make them describe the problem, measure it. And last year's single drug testing initiative, where we came up with these atrocious figures, was a start. And then I think we can try and get access to the prison construction block grant and start using some of that money to actually develop solutions to the problems of those who are addicted and behind bars. That's really the heart and soul of what's going on: We've got drug abusers, chronic, compulsive drug abusers arrested without treatment.
Again, less so in the federal system, where by law we have to provide treatment on demand, and we've got some 31,000 of our 105,000 federal prisoners in treatment. But even there, 2 percent positive is unsatisfactory. It doesn't make it much better that 9 percent is at state level.
Q Are there any -- could you enumerate some of the states where problems with drugs and prisoners in the state and local jails are more prevalent than in others?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Let me go see if I can break the data out by state, and if I can I'll give it to you. I'm relatively sure it is worse in some areas than others. I say that because two states, California and Delaware, I've been to look at their programs, tend to be models on how to deal with it. But having said that, I don't think it's satisfactory anywhere but in 42 of the 92 federal institutions that now have the complete array of programs, to include residential treatment available.
Q What drugs are they getting?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Probably the biggest single drug is marijuana, but we're also seeing heroin and cocaine inside prisons.
Q What is your legislative sense on this proposal? There has been a lot of spending proposals from the administration over the past several days. What is your sense on whether or not this is going to survive the cutting process?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I think the big solution won't be the $197 million we've got on the table. You know, we've got this 1.6 million people behind bars that's projected to go up by 25 percent in the next five years. Somehow, we've got to take the billions that are available for prison construction and make sure that the states have the legal option to take that money and include drug treatment and testing as part of that block grant. And I think the legislative assessment on how that will go probably isn't in yet. You can make such a good case for it, the Califano study, the Institute of Justice's drug positive arrest rates, the studies on recidivism -- I think we can make the case. But that will be the political question on the Hill.
Q Help me come up to speed on this. Drug use by adults has gone down in the last several years --
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: About 50 percent.
Q Drug use by juveniles has gone up.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Indeed.
Q What is the difference in the sense of why is that?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: The best single explanation I could offer is the University of Michigan's generational replacement, generational forgetting. So you've got a drug use rate among adults that's gone from 26 million in '79 down to around 13 million total. And inside that, pick a drug like cocaine -- you've got 75 percent decrease in the rate of adults casually using cocaine. Just plummeting through the bottom. You've got tremendous decreases in the number of people arrested who test positive for cocaine at most of our DUF test sites.
Now, having said that, along came a generation, from 1990 is probably the year, you see a steady shift in attitudes toward drugs worsening among adolescents. The two key attitudes -- do you disapprove and are you fearful of drug use personally. And those numbers start going bad in 1990 and '92 drug use starts up; it goes up for five straight years.
Last year we are cautiously noting that drug use among adolescents, both in terms of the household survey and other supporting evidence, leveled off or slightly went down among adolescents. Now, what we're hopeful is that this does represent a trend and that all the hard work is going to start paying off. And next year you may see a more statistically relevant decrease in drug use.
The only number that mildly impresses me is that 8th grade drug use looked like it took a definitive turn from up to down. It went up 300 percent in five years; it went down last year.
Q General, is there anything in the directive that responds to those who are in the criminal justice system or in positions of authority -- not prisoners or inmates, but those who may have helped get drugs into the prison system?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Good question. Yes. The federal system again -- I don't mean to hold up as a paragon of virtue, but in the federal system all correctional officers and other employees are required to be tested for drug use. And that may be a contributing factor to an earlier question on why the smuggling rates are less. So I think what you're going to see is that there will be a requirement for new legislation and what you'll really have is the states required to analyze the problem and report it and to come up with their own plan to correct it. And part of that plan, logically, could be what do you do about those in the correction system.
Q General, on a slightly different subject, in terms of kids getting hooked on drugs, have you noticed a cross-over from the medical community of kids being over-prescribed on certain drugs like Ridolin and others?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, there's a tremendous amount of concern, and I think appropriately so, that to what extent does an over-medicated society lower the threshold to tolerance of nonmedical use of these substances. It's an appropriate concern. The AMA does have subcommittees looking at it. I've talked to the American Society of Addictive Psychiatry, to the AMA, to the American Pediatric Society, and all of them are concerned about that.
Q And where do you come down on it -- where does the administration come down on it?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I have not advanced a position on it. Most of my focus has been on the direct portfolio we have which are illegal drugs. But I think it's an appropriate area for HHS concern because it can be an issue of an consistent message to young people. Now, Donna Shalala has been out in public with very strong viewpoints on Ridolin and other substances
Q How long has today's policy initiative been under development? One gets the sense it's about a week. I mean, are you just responding to Califano's report?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: No. We've been talking about that. Rahm Emanuel has been a lot of the energy behind this one and poking us for months. And you get into the -- unfortunately, you get into the problem, one problem leads to another, and at the end of the trail lay a current prohibition by law of using prison construction monies in any way but for prison construction. So we've got new money in here. I can't release the '99 drug budget figures, but just let me leave on the table that Dick Riley, Donna Shalala and I went into the President and the budget appeal with a message that made me weep it was so moving. (Laughter.) So we did pretty well we think in the budget appeal.
But that's $197 million for issues like this. Now, we got a force behind bars larger than the active military of the United States, and the Califano report says 80 percent; some of my justice studies say 34 percent up to 50 percent, but a huge number, hundreds of thousands of men and women are behind bars because they're addicted to illegal drugs. Now, what we're going to say quite clearly is if you don't like the $36 billion a year incarceration tab, we've got to take some funds and focus in on the addicted with drug treatment programs.
Q General, you used the phrase earlier in response to Helen's question about inappropriate controls on staff. You're talking about corruption in the prison guard system, are you not?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, I'm sure that's part of it, sure. It's visitors, it's guard staff, it's smuggling by prisoners themselves, or there may be people that deliver to the prison system food or material. I don't have a good enough handle on it, which is one of the reasons why I think when the President directs the Attorney General and I and others to take action on this, what we ought to do is put a requirement to produce results and see what the states do.
Now, I might also add, on 23 -- some of you will probably be interested in following this -- 23 through 25 March, the Attorney General and I and Secretary Shalala will host a prisons and drugs conference here in Washington. We're going to bring in about 100 of the nation's experts. We're going to ask them to write papers in advance so they have hammered out positions. We're going to have a 3-day attempt to build a new model. And then, next fall I'm going to try and bring back in the prison system of the United States, again with Secretary Shalala and the Attorney General, and get us moving on a broader front to confront this problem.
So the Califano study, the President's directives today, and the March conference, which we've been working on for a little under a year now, are all related issues.
Q General, we're getting close again to a certification date. Do you think the process is working? Do you think its getting results?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, Senator Biden told me the process was put in place not because we didn't trust the Colombians or the Panamanians or the Mexicans, because he didn't trust the government. So, to that extent, it's working. It's forcing very detailed discussion of where we are.
Having said all that, you have heard me advance the argument, and the President clearly supports it, that the solution will be multinational cooperation on the drug issue. And there's a lot of work we're doing with the OAS. The high level contact group with Mexico is trying to make the point that we've got to deal with the Mexican government on a broad array of issues related to the drug problem, trying to assist them in creating corruption-free, effective police forces. We've got initiative going on in training of judges.
Secretary Shalala and I are going to run a conference in March in El Paso with a couple of hundred delegates from each country on demand reduction. You may be interested in watching that. We're going to site down, have four days where we come up with joint programs where we come up to reduce demand for drugs, particularly in the border communities, where the Mexicans have a skyrocketing drug problem themselves. Still, I might add, a fraction of that of the United States.
But, at the end of the day, the certification -- the unilateral certification I don't think will be the key to building hemispheric cooperation. But it's still a law, and we're still discussing the issue.
Q Sir, could you give us an update on your plans to seal off the southwest border to drugs, as you spoke to us about a few weeks ago?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: We are doing a considerable amount of work, the Attorney General and I and Secretary Rubin, in particular, but all -- 20 some odd agencies of the government are involved in it -- to come up with a -- with two things. First of all, we need a resource allocation scheme. How much would it cost to create better control over the southwest border in terms of technology acquisition -- we say there's 39 border crossing points right now, two of them have non-intrusive technology capabilities. What happens if we go to all 39. So we've got to produce a dollar amount to ask Congress to support it.
Then the second thing we think we need is a better way of coordinating U.S. government actions on the southwest border, which are inadequately coordinated right now. We need a border patrol that has the right fencing, lighting, cooperative mechanisms with the Mexicans. There may be requirement for new legislation. So we're into it. And in the short-term, I owe a concept and a resource bill to the President in the next few months.
I might add, we've also finished now phase one of our intel review. We finally have a 10-pound document that tells us who is contributing to intelligence on the drug issue. And I've got a team working to come up with an analysis on how should we change it -- roles, missions, procedures, et cetera. And those people are set up and working, and hopefully will produce something useful for the President to consider. I think we're moving along, is the answer.
Q General, what do you think of the Califano findings that many violent criminals are using alcohol at the time they commit their crimes?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: No question.
Q Do we need to give more attention to alcohol?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: No question. You know, if you talk to a policeman on a beat in any one of these American cities, alcohol is a mildly addictive, readily available drug that is responsible for more damage in our society than any other drug on the street. And it is also associated in a dramatic way with violent behavior, as is methamphetamines, crack cocaine, and other drugs. But there is no question that alcohol -- but having said that poly-drug abuse is really what's happening in our society now. That's why when you hear us talk about adolescents, we're talking cigarettes, alcohol, and pot. Those are the three gateway behaviors that are predictive statistically on drug problems later on in life.
But booze is, no question, a major problem in our society -- 100,000 dead, $150 billion in damages. It dwarfs the impact currently of the other drugs, which are hard to get, illegal, and ferociously addictive.
Any other thoughts? Good, thanks very much.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:22 P.M. EST