Jan 1, 2002
Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications
‘Tough Choices’ introduced under the Drugs Act 2005 moved the point at which a drug test for the Class A drugs heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine, could be carried out in the custody suite from post-charge to post-arrest. It also gave the police new powers to require those who tested positive to be assessed for a drug problem rather than allowing them to seek assessments voluntarily. Those who tested positive were referred to the Drug Interventions Programme (DIP) which was introduced in April 2003 to direct adult drug-using offenders into drug treatment with a view to reducing their level of offending. This research into ‘Tough Choices’ looks in particular at rates of re-offending and levels of attrition from treatment programmes. The research examined two cohorts in the DIP intensive areas in England during two time frames: the ‘Testing on Charge’ cohort which consisted of 7727 individuals who tested positive at the point of charge during the period 1 July to 31 October 2005; and the more recent ‘Testing on Arrest’ cohort which consisted of 11,015 individuals who tested positive at the point of arrest during the period 1 April to 30 June 2006. The Testing on Charge cohort had an average of 5.7 offences in the three years before their positive test. The Testing on Arrest cohort had an average of 4.1 offences for the same period. The mean age for both cohorts was 30 years. Given that treatment retention has been recognized as a key factor in reducing the criminal activity of drug users and was a particular problem in the earlier DTTO it was encouraging to discover that treatment retention for DIP clients was 79 per cent before the introduction of ‘Tough Choices’ and 74 per cent following. This compares very well with retention for those engaged in treatment voluntarily which is around 76 per cent. Interestingly, retention for those identified as ‘high crimecausing users’ in the Testing on Arrest cohort was lower than for the Testing on Charge group (64% compared to 87%), although this report is unable to draw any firm conclusions as to why that might be, due to the low numbers involved. The data also shows that offending levels six months following the DIP were lower than in the six months before DIP. However, this is a small period of time and based upon actual convictions which represent a small proportion of actual criminal activity. Further methodological limitations in terms of the absence of any control group also preclude drawing any causal relationship between the intervention from the DIP and possible changes in patterns of offending.