Criminal Justice and Substance Abuse
Desistance Mandates vs Treatment Mandates
In a recent edition of the journal Addiction, Mark Kleiman, Angela Hawken, and Beau Kilmer have an editorial comparing the efficacy of desistant mandates and treatment mandates in reducing substance use among criminally-involved individuals.
If, in fact, some people under criminal justice supervision who have substance use problems can cease drug consumption without formal treatment, then the authority of criminal-justice agencies could be used to mandate desistance directly rather than via mandated treatment participation. While this claim may seem surprising, the literature on contingency management demonstrates that small, predictable incentives can induce abstinence among heavy substance users. Those studies focus typically on vouchers or prizes, but it may also be the case that heavy users will desist to avoid small sanctions.