NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Effect Of Drug Treatment On Crime

August 20, 1999

Treating drug users who commit offenses cuts crime rates more effectively than putting them in prison, according to an analysis of research in the United States and in England from the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders in London.

  • A third of all thefts, burglaries, and street robberies in England and Wales are now drug related, states the report, "Drug-driven Crime: a Factual and Statistical Analysis."
  • Urine tests on 839 people arrested in five areas of England showed that nearly two-thirds tested positive for one illegal drug and more than a quarter did so for two or more.
  • The national treatment outcome research study, funded by the U.K. Department of Health, monitored 1,100 people who entered drug treatment programs between March and July 1995.
  • Mainly heroin users, between them they had committed about 70,000 crimes in the three months before treatment.

Two years on, incidence of both drug use and criminal behavior was substantially reduced, in many cases by more than half. "For every pound spent on drug misuse treatment," said Paul Cavadino, the study's author, "we save more than £3 associated with the cost of crime."

Source: Judy Jones, "Drug Treatment Beats Prison for Cutting Crime and Addiction Rates," British Medical Journal, August 21, 1999.


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