Understanding Substance Use Trajectories Among Probationers and the Impact on Re-Arrest
Community Supervision, Substance Use, and Criminal Behavior
Prior research demonstrates a strong connection between criminal behavior and substance use. In particular, those involved in the criminal justice system are more likely to experience negative outcomes if they continue their substance use (Marlow, 2011). Despite the many programs and techniques created and/or used by criminal justice agencies to stop substance use, failing drug testing is one of the most common violations committed during community supervision (Gray et al., 2001). Furthermore, these programs and techniques produce mixed results at best. For instance, one common mechanism of addressing substance use for those under community supervision is through drug testing or other monitoring mechanisms. Despite wide use, one systematic review found no evidence that using only monitoring or control techniques as a form of substance abuse treatment through community supervision reduced recidivism (Chanhatasilpa et al., 2000). However, other research supports techniques such as drug testing, when used in a setting of swift and certain sanctioning. Grommon, Cox, Davidson, and Bynum (2013) conducted a randomized controlled trial to test the impact that drug testing had on parolee recidivism. The frequency of drug testing as well as the timing of receiving results and the swiftness of the consequences for those results varied per study arm. They found that “exposure to frequent, random testing and certain and 10 swift consequences significantly lower relapse and recidivism rates during the process of transition into the community” (Grommon et al., 2013, p. 162). However, the results diminished after the study protocol increasing the swiftness and certainty of consequences ended. These findings support other programs such as Project HOPE that found success with drug tests by using swift and certain sanctioning coupled with intensive treatment (Harrell & Roman, 2001; Hawken & Kleiman, 2009). Some of the inconsistent findings for control techniques may be due to the inattention to balance between control behaviors and positive reinforcements. For instance, Schwalbe (2019) found that when probation officers work with youth, there needed to be more positive pressures (incentives) and fewer negative pressures (sanctions), but that both must be present to effectively impact substance use behavior.