The Washington Post's examination of the District of Columbia's mandatory sentencing law for drug distribution offenses relied in part on an analysis of the records of 600 defendants prosecuted in D.C. Superior Court and U.S. District Court between 1981 and 1986.

The defendants were chosen in sample groups to measure the impact of the law since it went into effect on June 7, 1983. Samples of 100 defendants for each of three years -- 1981, 1983 and 1985 -- were selected in the order they were indicted by Superior Court grand juries.

Emphasis was placed on the 1983 sample so that profiles of these individuals could be developed.

Over a two-year period, The Post photocopied 3,814 court documents constituting the criminal justice records of these individuals, and purchased 1,124 pages of transcripts from their court hearings. The Post interviewed 24 of the defendants in prisons around the country, in their homes and in drug treatment programs. Two defendants died before their cases were resolved, the case of one is pending and another defendant is a fugitive.

The Post also examined the results of felony drug indictments and criminal informations brought against 186 defendants prosecuted in U.S. District Court in 1985. An additional 114 cases, filed from January through April 1986 with one Superior Court judge, also were analyzed.

The Post collected statistical information from sources reflecting enforcement of the city's drug laws, drug treatment, levels of drug abuse and trends in incarceration.

In all, 152 interviews were conducted with defendants, their attorneys, prosecutors, judges, police officers, city officials, drug treatment specialists and criminal justice authorities.