Temporal patterns in the development of drug use, criminal behaviour and drug treatment

Criminology Research Council grant ; (12/92-3)

Funding for this study enabled an existing investigation examining drug treatment in the Melbourne Odyssey House therapeutic community to be extended to include a more detailed analysis of archived records relating to convictions and incarcerations. Analyses addressed the temporal association between drug use, criminal behaviour and treatment. Follow-up procedures were able to successfully locate 75 per cent of a target sample of 427 ex-therapeutic residents treated between 1984 and 1988. Interviews were conducted with 255 or 60 per cent and an additional 20 (5 per cent) were officially confirmed to have died in the period prior to follow-up. The available evidence supported the conclusion that findings for those interviewed could be generalised to the Odyssey population.

Examination revealed exposure to the Odyssey program to be an important predictor of outcomes following treatment. In the most recent year prior to interview three variables significantly predicted outcomes. Attaining a higher treatment level in the Odyssey program was the most stable predictor of reduced criminal involvement. Those aged between 26 and 29 who had used opiates for less than five years of admission evidenced an independently reduced probability of criminal involvement. Those incarcerated prior to admission were more likely to be criminally involved in the most recent year.

The results suggest further investigation of the therapeutic community treatment model as an appropriate direction for corrections work with the large class of offenders for whom drug dependence and antisocial behaviour are connected. In particular it is recommended that the therapeutic community model should be carefully examined with respect to its relevance as an alternative to prison.