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Specifying the Relationship Between Arrestee Drug Test Results and Recidivism

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 83 Issue: 2 Dated: (Summer 1992) Pages: 364-377
Date Published
14 pages
Over the last 15 years, research has confirmed what many criminal justice practitioners have long suspected; among criminal populations, drug use is a predictor of future criminal activity.
Improved drug testing technology has significantly enhanced the ability to obtain information about an arrestee's recent drug use. The use of this information, however, represents a source of considerable debate. Some propose that evidence of an arrestee's recent drug use should play a role in decisions about pretrial detention, including what requirements should be imposed as a condition of release. Opponents contend the results predict future criminality but only because drug test information duplicates other risk factors, such as the accused's prior criminal history. Opponents argue that widespread drug testing of arrestees is unnecessary because information on other risk factors is readily available, cheaper, and less intrusive. The results of an analysis of persons arrested in the District of Columbia during 1990 showed that the presence of drugs in urine specimens taken shortly after arrest was significantly associated with an increased probability that the person would be subsequently arrested for a new crime. This association persisted even after other risk factors for recidivism, such as prior record, employment status, and age, were taken into account. Further, the strength of the association between drug use and recidivism varied with the presence of absence of other risk factors. Specifically, arrestee drug test information was strongly related to recidivism among arrestees who otherwise were at lower risk of future offending. 26 footnotes and 4 tables

Date Published: January 1, 1992