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Evaluation of Drug Testing in the Criminal Justice System in Three Pilot Areas

NCJ Number
Jacqueline Mallender; Elizabeth Roberts; Toby Seddon
Date Published
4 pages
This report presents the results of a preliminary evaluation of the first few months of a 3-year evaluation of the implementation of Great Britain's Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, which gives the police the power to drug test detainees in police custody and gives the courts the power to order drug testing of offenders under the supervision of the probation service.
The testing is restricted to heroin and cocaine, and is to be used with individuals 18 years old or over who have been charged or convicted of "trigger offenses," including property crime, robbery, and specified Class A drug offenses. The powers authorized under the act are currently being pilot tested in three areas. The preliminary evaluation found that the police and the probation service at all three sites have adopted the new provision, and the drug testing has become successfully integrated into routine working procedures. Compliance with the testing by detainees and probationers has been good, with less than 0.5 percent refusing to be tested. The proportion of police tests in which results were positive for cocaine and/or heroin were 63 percent at the Hackney site, 58 percent at the Nottingham site, and 47 percent at the Stafford and Cannock site. Over half of the probationers tested had breached the conditions of their probation, testing positive for opiates and/or cocaine either for three consecutive or for two nonconsecutive tests over a 6-week period. It is too early to determine whether the testing has had any impact on drug abuse and/or offending. This report recommends that the ways in which drug testing is linked to advice and support given to individuals seeking treatment should be strengthened at both local and national levels. Also, for the surveillance effect to work, the drug tester should reinforce messages about the consequences of a positive test result. For probation testing, the relatively strict conditions for violation may be unrealistic for some offenders, since research has documented the need for a lengthy period of treatment before some drug addicts can achieve abstinence. 3 tables


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