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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 5, 1999
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                        GENERAL BARRY MCCAFFREY 
                           The Briefing Room 

12:45 P.M. EST

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Let me, if I may, just make some very quick comments to follow on in the announcements we just made. There is a -- we've been involved for three years in what I think is the most fundamental problem that has been inadequately addressed in the drug threat to America -- that is the 4 million chronic addicts. And the 4 million chronic addicts at any given time, a huge number of them, probably the majority --3.5 million or more -- are involved in the criminal justice system. They're under arrest, in prison, or on probation or parole.

They are also the population that we believe consume two-thirds of all the drugs in America. And they're in a shoot -- this process started when they were teenagers and it continues until they're dead unless something intervenes.

So what the President and the Attorney General and I did today was lay down another marker on something that formerly we said -- started in March of last year -- and that was a conference we had on the nexus between prisons, crime and drugs. And we brought together the country's experts. Our notion is by the coming fall we'll bring together a couple of thousand people and give them state legislators, community correction directors, a model on how to proceed ahead.

It's one of the reasons I had Lt. Governor Kennedy Townsend here; we have formed a partnership with the state on how to move in this direction.

Today what the President announced formally was -- and I noticed he carefully didn't use the actual dollar value -- between FY'99, where our total drug budget again went up substantially -- it went up to $17.8 billion -- but inside that, we had a significant increase in treatment dollars related to the criminal justice system. And you've heard these numbers talked about before. Specifically, there's three I'll just quickly highlight: residential substance abuse treatment; drug intervention program; and the drug-free prisons demonstration program. So there's some money there. We also got another $50 million out of prison construction funding, which, in theory, a state now may elect to use for drug treatment in the criminal justice system.

Now, between FY'99 and 2000, the President just talked about a 40 percent increase in funding for those programs. So we'll have an increase of a minimum of $62 million in the coming year.

The reason we're impressed about that -- the other thing he announced, hidden inside that money, was about $6 million in a test grant -- there were seven states in there, represented, today -- where we put a modest amount of money on the table for the federal system and state to sort out how do we keep drugs out of prisons. And some of the numbers are disgraceful. As high as nine percent of prisoners, depending on the system you go to, will test positive for drugs behind bars, and --

Q How do you explain it?

MR. MCCAFFREY: How do you explain it?

Q Well, how do you keep drugs out of prisons?

MR. MCCAFFREY: Well, some of the things in the $6 million are going to be tested in the seven states in the federal system are things like ion scanner devices, which, we believe, where we've installed them, dramatic reductions in number of drugs coming in with the visitors. You tell the visitors, you're going to get swabbed, you will be tested. They come up positive, they leave, and the word goes out: you simply can't bring drugs into this federal prison.

There are also drug dogs; there's also increased training for prisoners. The next step will extend this to prisoner property inside the prison system. Using technology and intelligence, we think we can make a dramatic difference. And we owe it to ourselves to do it.

Now, that's sort of a modest piece of it, because the larger piece is how do we get prison-based drug treatment. And then, how do we have a follow-on component so, when they're released back to the community the drug treatment continues. If you do that -- and the numbers are almost beyond belief -- if you do that, drug abuse at six months goes down as much as 73 percent and rearrest rates -- recidivism -- may go down more than 50 percent. So the payoff's immediate and potentially enormous to us.

That's what we talked about today, and I would ask you -- if you want to watch what we're doing and to sort of measure the proceedings -- when we bring out the 1998 strategy -- by the way, the law reauthorizing my agency passed, hidden in that 4,000-page omnibus bill -- we'll bring out the '99 strategy, it will be a five-year report. I won't put one out in the year 2000. And it will have tied to it performance measures of effectiveness, by law, I'll have to have those performance measures of effectiveness. And it also requires me, by law, to have a five-year drug budget projection.

So we're pretty upbeat. We think we're moving in the right direction. And the heart and soul of the effort, though, on prisons and drugs is the Attorney General, Secretary Shalala, and I. And on that note -- Jose, would you add in -- any questions I can respond to?

Q General McCaffrey, how did the problem get to be two-thirds of federal prisoners being drug offenders? How did it get to that level?

MR. MCCAFFREY: Well, the numbers are -- let me put them in context. The total number is 1.8 million and rising, and you sort out, where are they behind bars? The huge chunk of them is state-level prisoners, 900,000. About a half-million in county-city lockups, and 105,000 at federal level.

The federal system is the place where DEA, FBI, ATF -- where we go after the major drug criminals. So if you look at that 105,000 prisoners, about 66 percent are drug-related offenses, and a huge number of those are the significant traffickers. You look at that 66 percent -- just another layer of the onion -- about half of them are foreign and half of them are American. So that's where we get the Colombians, Dominicans, Nigerians, Russians, as well as American criminal enterprise.

Q But what I'm saying is, how is it still happening? Why is it still happening? Why is it on the rise?

MR. MCCAFFREY: These are the drug traffickers. In other words, these don't tend to be drug abusers in the federal system.

Q But that's what I'm talking about, the drug abusers in the system. The prisoners who are abusers, there are instances --

MR. MCCAFFREY: That's not the federal system, by and large. The federal system -- the point I'm trying to make, the huge number of them, these are the retail, wholesale criminal enterprise. A lot of them are foreign, and -- for example, possession of marijuana. If you're behind bars in the federal system for possession of marijuana, the chances are that you were in possession of a little more than one ton.

Q Well, maybe I should change the way to ask this. Okay, let's say those who are in prison who are abusing --

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Are abusing drugs? The place you should expect to see that is in county lock-ups. First of all, if you're addicted to drugs you're going to end up in trouble with the criminal justice system. It's a guarantee. Whether it goes nine years, but you'll end up there. You'll get in trouble sooner if you don't have a health insurance policy, if you don't have a steady income, if you're not part of a family. But sooner or later, whether you're an anesthesiologist or an 18-year-old young man with no job, you'll end up in trouble with the criminal justice system.

So if you look at the population, take heroin addicts, 800,000 of them, they're older, they're sicker, they have multiple felony convictions, and they're behind bars or on probation a good bit of their life. That's really what we're talking about -- how do you break the cycle of having a compulsive drug user -- how do you break the cycle of having them spending much of their lives under arrest, in the prison, out in three days or three years and back into compulsive drug use. And we've said if you don't do that, you simply can't get it, you can't address the problem.

Did I respond to your question?

Q No.

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Try again. Let me see if I can be --

Q Sam, maybe you will be able to help me.

Q Well, April wants to know, I think, your last statement contained what she wants to know -- how do you break the cycle? Why are all these people there?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: How do you go about it?

Q The addicts -- illicit drugs are getting into prisons, okay, state, local, federal, whatever.

Q Nine percent test positive.

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: More likely, six percent. Nine percent is a high number. In one of our prisons it was nine percent.

Q What I'm saying is, why? Why is it continuing? Why are the numbers growing? Why? We understand in some --

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: The number is growing of --

Q Inmates who are addicts, who are currently addicts. We understand that there are some instances where police officers were actually bringing in drugs for inmates.

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Let me, if I can, try and --

Q Because if this is zero tolerance, you're talking zero tolerance, so that means no more drugs.

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Let's talk just about the prison population -- that's really your interest, right?

Q Yes.

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: The chronic drug user who is behind bars and what do you do about it. And that -- what you do about it -- the easiest thing you do is you try and not have drugs in the prison system. You have to get them drug-free while you've got them under your control. And at one extreme you can say in some county lock-ups, with nothing going on, drugs are routinely available. You've got to get them drug-free.

So that $6-million grant tests ways to go about that. But the larger issue, we've argued, is you can't just lock them up. You have to have a three-phase program: Phase one is diversion. When I'm arrested I'm tested for drugs. This is a break the cycle -- $100 million in FY2000. I will be tested for drug use. If I test positive, I will go into drug treatment, mandated.

I'll then go to trial. If I'm convicted, I'll go into drug treatment in prison. When I'm in prison, part of the rationale for letting me out will be whether I responded to treatment. And then when I'm out I'm going to go to a work release program where I will continue getting tested and I'll know I can be reincarcerated for 21 days, not necessarily for four years.

Our data seems to suggest if you do that you have a dramatic change in the behavior of the compulsive drug user. And we haven't done that systematically. The federal system in the last five years has started doing it; the state has done very little of it except for states like Delaware, Maryland, California, Texas got going on it. But that's really where we're trying to go.

What do you think? Am I getting a response? It's compulsive drug user.

Q Yes, you're there.

Q Let me sort of ask a related question. I'll ask the question and then give it some context. Do you feel that the federal prison system has enough funding or whatever for its drug abusers who are in prison? Because as you would know, 20 years ago federal prisons were considered white collar country club kinds of things. In those 20 years, though, Congress and the various Presidents have made more federal crimes and especially, of course, drug dealing and violent crimes and that kind of stuff. But do you think that the federal prison system itself has enough money to help treat its drug abusers, which the numbers I imagine would be growing.

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: No. Well, I'm sure we don't. Having said that, it's sort of the jewel of the system. I started this morning at 7:00 a.m. with a breakfast of the whole treatment team, which included Kathleen Hock-Sawyer (phonetic), who's the head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. And she, properly, ought to be proud of the fact that our 42 institutions all can claim they have some form of drug treatment.

Now, having said that, we aren't even beginning to be where we need to be. But the federal system ought to be proud of what they've done. Almost every institution now has a screening device. Every institution has some form of drug treatment -- perhaps not residential, one-year, separate facilities. And she is also about to release, here, in the next few months, you'll see the 18-month data released. What that tells you is, many of our federal drug prisoners now, when they get out, are still under control of federal authorities. They continue to get drug testing, and they must stay in treatment.

And the six-month data -- how well they're doing -- is beyond-belief good. Let's wait and see what happens at 18 months. She'll talk about that in the next couple of months.

Federal systems in the van. State -- you know, Delaware's another place to go, look at an incredibly successful experiment, but their experiment is with 100 prisoners, male prisoners, about 100 females. Now we have to extend it to the drug-driven prison population. We're in the front end of this thing, no question.

Any other thoughts?

Q Do you enjoy your work? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCAFFREY: Actually, Sam, I do. I've been -- we've spent a lot of time making sure we have modest current expectations, but if you look at the long run -- look back 15 years at the nightmare we had in America from drug abuse, and where we are today, it's gotten better. I mean, even numbers in the last three years have dramatically gotten better. Crack cocaine -- people who are arrested and test positive for crack -- is down dramatically.

The most important figure, bar none, is adolescent Americans. That's a number for you to watch -- this year, next year, and the following year. Do those attitudes change, and do drug abuse rates by adolescents change, particularly the 8th graders. Watch the 8th graders. Now, what we have argued is, in the last two years, monitoring the future data, went from six years of steady growth; two years ago it leveled out. How significant is that? We didn't say at the time. The data Secretary Shalala and I just released, it all went down or leveled out. Tiny amounts, a percent, two percent, but they were all statistically significant from the test. So that, to me, is the best news I've had.

The final thing we've said, can you actually make a difference about the consequences of drug-related compulsive action. Yes, you can. You can drive crime down. If you get treatment programs and hook them into the criminal justice system, it's guaranteed to make life better in America. And instead of a bunch of political guff in Congress, we've got Rob Portman, Denny Hastert, Steny Hoyer, Charlie Rangel, Biden, Hatch and others who are willing to help me pay for it. So we're getting the funding. We keep it up for 10 years and America is going to be better off.

Q Do you think it will be well-received in the Congress?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Sure. Yes. I think, over time what I hear now is a widespread recognition, the heart and soul of changing the problem is prevention. Both parties, both Houses will buy into that. Certainly the state governors will. And there's a grudging recognition that treatment sounds like smart drug policy. And I'll tell you who is supporting it -- you watch the law enforcement association line up behind it. The smart cops are basically supporting what we're trying to do.

And on that note -- sure.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 1:05 P.M. EST