A research team at Teesside University, led by Professor Newbury-Birch have carried out a systematic review of literature which shows the level of alcohol misuse at different stages of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in the UK. See the full research paper here.
Levels of alcohol misuse are much higher in the CJS at around 75%, than in the general population where it is around 25%. Furthermore over a third of people involved in the CJS have some level of alcohol dependency, compared with 4% in the general population.
Different levels of misuse and dependence were found at different settings and stages of the CJS. The research identified:
'..88% of adults in the police custody setting, 69% in the probation setting and 86% in the prison system are risky drinkers. Furthermore, using adults risky drinking limits, 64% of young people aged between 11 and 17 in the criminal justice system were risky drinkers. The study also found that up to 38% of people in the police custody setting, 33% in the probation setting and 43% in the prison system scored positive for dependency.'
The review also considered the evidence for Identification and Brief Advice (IBA) for alcohol misuse in the CJS. Overall, the team found there is very little evidence to support brief interventions across the UK criminal justice system, so more research is needed in this area. Key findings though can be summarised as:
- In police custody - only one trial in the UK, and this looked at reoffending rates. It showed no statistical difference in reoffending between intervention and control group
- In magistrates court - only one trial was conducted which showed no difference in reoffending rates or alcohol measures
- In probation - two RCTs were found. One had no effectiveness data due too very low follow up rates and the other compared AUDIT screening, feedback and a leaflet, with short brief advice and brief lifestyle counselling. The results showed there were equal benefits to reduction of alcohol use with each method, but interesting findings showing a reduction in reoffending from the brief advice and lifestyle counselling methods.
- In prison - no UK studies were found. There are difficulties in when and how you measure alcohol consumption when someone is incarcerated for a long time.
- For young people in the CJS - no UK studies were found however some promising US studies have been undertaken.
A previous APUK blog post on levels of alcohol related violent crime reported by the British Crime Survey and highlighted that more than half of violent offences are linked to alcohol misuse (~53% of all violent crime). Given the significant proportion of crime related to alcohol misuse, including domestic violence and sexual offences the Teesside study is a welcome contribution to help reduce alcohol misuse and associated crime and health impacts.
Indeed in 2013 the World Health Organization (WHO) released the report 'Alcohol problems in the criminal justice system: an opportunity for intervention'. In 2011 the Centre for Mental Health published the report A Label for Exclusion: Support for alcohol-misusing offenders whilst in 2010 the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) published comprehensive Alcohol Interventions Guidance for probation staff on the effective commissioning, management and delivery of a range of interventions for alcohol misusing offenders.