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Inside the Drug Trade: Trafficking from the Dealer's Perspective
Qualitative Sociology (1993)
  • Kenneth D. Tunnell, Eastern Kentucky University

Over the past decade drug laws have increased in number and in punishment severity. Prison sentences for drug trafficking have increased in length and greater numbers of individuals have been incarcerated for violating new, "get tough" drug policies. Yet, we know little about once-active drug traffickers who presently receive longer prison sentences than at any time previously. We know little about their trafficking networks, their modes of connecting with buyers and sellers of drugs, and how their drug use contributes to their dealing. To address these issues, a sample of incarcerated drug traffickers was selected and interviewed. The major findings indicate that (1) nearly all participants were low-level dealers; (2) they dealt primarily to have access to drugs to which they were addicted; (3) they "drifted" into dealing and neither made conscious decisions to become drug dealers nor had images of themselves as dealers; and (4) although they were low-level drug dealers, the majority received very long prison sentences. This descriptive study adds to our understanding of the character of drug dealing among individuals netted in the on-going war on drugs.

DOI: 10.1007/BF00989970

  • DRUG traffic,
  • PHARMACEUTICAL industry,
  • DRUGS Law legislation,
  • DRUG dealers,
  • PRISON sentences
Publication Date
Winter 1993
Citation Information
Kenneth D. Tunnell. "Inside the Drug Trade: Trafficking from the Dealer's Perspective" Qualitative Sociology Vol. 16 Iss. 4 (1993)
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