Offenders with alcohol problems who enter an alcohol treatment program as part of their sentence are far less likely to be charged or reconvicted during the 12 months following their treatment, according to a new study led by Plymouth University in the U.K.

Alcohol treatment programs could also have cost benefits, with the bill for placing one person in prison being up to 37 times higher than assigning that person to a community-based alcohol treatment program.

For the study, researchers observed males with alcohol addiction problems with related criminal offenses. The participants had been assigned to a range of different treatments when convicted.

The researchers calculated the participants’ charged and reconviction rates for the next year and found that offenders who did not participate in such treatment programs were twice as likely to be charged and two and a half times more likely to be reconvicted.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been one of the most common methods to reduce alcohol use, and the judicial systems in the United Kingdom and the United States have specifically identified CBT alcohol treatment programs as the chief method to break the link between alcohol and crime,” said researchers, led by Ph.D. student Marie Needham, Dr. Michaela Gummerum and Dr. Yaniv Hanoch from Plymouth University.

“Our findings provide novel and valuable evidence to support the practice of assigning male offenders to alcohol treatment interventions, as they show an indication that alcohol treatment programs could help reduce recidivism.”

“Given the hundreds if not thousands of offenders who might be eligible to attend an alcohol treatment program each year, this could amount to substantial public savings. Beyond financial gains, committing fewer offenses and staying out of prison have strong and continued benefits for the offenders, their families, and the community.”

The research involved 564 male offenders, with 141 of them each assigned by the courts to one of three alcohol treatment programs: a Low Intensity Alcohol Program (LIAP), an Alcohol Specified Activity Requirement (ASAR), and Addressing Substance-Related Offending (ASRO). A fourth group of 141 was not assigned to a program and served as a control group.

The findings showed a significant reduction in participants being charged with or reconvicted of a crime who had completed a treatment program, with the LIAP being deemed by researchers as the most successful in reducing reconviction rates and the most cost effective.

“In the delivery of probation services to offenders, we always try to do things that are evidenced to work,” said Ian Clewlow, deputy chief executive of the Dorset Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company.

“We welcome the news from this Plymouth University research that offenders and service users who participate in alcohol programs are less likely to reoffend and be convicted than those that do not, and this is a testament to the hard work of staff to make these programs a success in the community.”

The findings are published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Source:  University of Plymouth