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CJI briefing on substance misuse

New briefing

18 September 2020
CJI briefing on substance misuse

The Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI) has published a briefing to support practitioners seeking to improve their court-based response to substance misuse. The briefing summarises the evidence for the link between substance misuse and offending, as well as what works for supporting offenders with substance misuse problems. In addition, it highlights innovative 'problem-solving' good practice.

The briefing sets out the links between criminal behaviour and substance misuse, including both drug and alcohol problems.  It provides summaries of the evidence showing that drug or alcohol treatment programmes can have a positive impact on reducing re-offending, as well as offering value for money. These programmes should be available as part of a community sentence, either as a Drug Treatment Requirement or an Alcohol Treatment Requirement, which can include regular testing for the offender.

The CJI identified four projects seeking to enhance these standard treatment and testing offers, through the adoption of evidence based 'problem-solving' practice. Their briefing explains that there were four features common to these projects, linked to their success:

  • Effective judicial monitoring: where the same judge can monitor the progress of offenders at review hearings. The importance of those judges being skilled in providing feedback directly to the offenders to motivate and inspire them was noted
  • Fast-tracked access to treatment: where offenders have chaotic lifestyles and insecure accommodation, waiting a couple of weeks for an appointment letter created problems. Therefore it was shown that quick acceptance onto these treatment programmes was vital
  • Customised support: with offenders being given a comprehensive and tailored treatment plan, specific to their needs and situation. It was also necessary for offenders to be willing to engage with the programmes, and for additional support to be in place for mental health needs
  • Recognition of success: offenders' progress and achievements should be acknowledged and celebrated
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