Substance Abuse and Crime in a Canadian Prison

Abundant research confirms a high prevalence of substance use and mental disorders in correctional samples. It is unclear, however, how these contribute to the risk of repeat offending. A study published recently in Psychology, Public Policy and Law examined offense trajectories within a Canadian Provincial offender population (N = 31,014), and observed that offenders with non–substance-related mental disorders were at no greater risk of recidivism than those with no diagnosis. In contrast, odds of recidivism were significantly higher among those with substance use and/or co-occurring disorders. These findings add strength to the emerging conclusion that non–substance-related mental disorders are, as a group, less likely to predict recidivism than substance use disorders. Notably, nearly 50% of repeat offenders had a physician-diagnosed substance use disorder in the 5 years prior to their index offense. Results are discussed in relation to the necessity for targeted evidence-based partnerships between health and corrections sectors that are responsive to both public health and safety.

For the abstract.


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