Volume 5, Issue 1 • Spring 2016

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Trauma-Informed Collaborations Among Juvenile Justice and Other Child-Serving Systems: An Update

Looking Forward: A Research and Policy Agenda for Creating Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems

Psychosocial Interventions for Traumatized Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: Research, Evidence Base, and Clinical/Legal Challenges

Acute and Chronic Effects of Substance Use as Predictors of Criminal Offense Types Among Juvenile Offenders

Examining the Influence of Ethnic/Racial Socialization on Aggressive Behaviors Among Juvenile Offenders

Assessing Probation Officers' Knowledge of Offenders with Intellectual Disabilities: A Pilot Study

Gender and Adolescents’ Risk for Recidivism in Truancy Court

Acute and Chronic Effects of Substance Use as Predictors of Criminal Offense Types Among Juvenile Offenders

Albert M. Kopak, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Western Carolina University; Steven L. Proctor, Clinical Psychology Department, Carlos Albizu University–Miami Campus.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Albert M. Kopak, Belk 410-E, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC, 28723. E-mail: amkopak@wcu.edu

Keywords: drug offenders, chronic substance use, Survey of Youth in Residential Placement, substance use disorder, treatment

Abstract

Our understanding of the relationships between substance use and offending generally includes the findings that alcohol use is correlated with violent crime and drug use is typically related to certain drug offenses (e.g., possession). However, most of the research underlying current knowledge has focused on adults, and few if any studies specify types of offenses. The current study was designed to fill the apparent gaps in the research literature by utilizing data from the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement in a more detailed examination of the complex relationships between acute and chronic effects of alcohol use, drug use, and offense type among juvenile offenders. Multinomial logistic regressions indicate that acute effects (i.e., being under the influence of drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs) are most likely to be associated with detention for drug offenses. Chronic effects, including frequency of alcohol use and substance-related problems, are significantly more likely to be associated with detention for violent offenses (i.e., robbery, assault with a weapon, murder, rape, or kidnapping) relative to drug offenses. These results have important implications for the assessment and treatment of substance use among juvenile offenders detained for both drug-related and violent offenses.

Introduction

Substance use is a widespread problem among youth involved in the juvenile justice system. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA, 2004), it is estimated that just over 78% of juvenile arrests in 2000 involved adolescents who (a) were under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs while committing an offense, (b) were arrested for a substance-related offense (e.g., liquor law violations and drug possession), (c) had reported social problems related to their substance use, or (d) had tested positive for drugs at the time they were taken into custody. Therefore, 1.9 million youth who came into contact with the criminal justice system were also affected in some way by substance use. This segment of the population may be most at risk for long-term, substance-related problems, including the development of a substance use disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Teplin et al., 2005). The consequences of prolonged substance use may also contribute to the continuation of problem behavior into later stages of life, especially compared to youth who come into contact with the criminal justice system and do not have a history of substance use (Menard, Mihalic, & Huizinga, 2001; Tarter, Kirisci, Mezzich, & Patton, 2011).

Beyond the obvious need for early intervention and prevention programming to address substance use and dependence among juvenile offenders, there are additional costs associated with overlooking these issues. A considerable amount of criminal justice resources are allocated toward detaining juvenile offenders in various stages of the criminal justice process—from offenders with substance use problems to those awaiting adjudication, or those who are serving sentences. Estimates from detailed budget information from 45 states in 2004 revealed that juvenile justice corrections expenditures were approximately $3.6 billion for those offenders who experienced problems related to substance use (CASA, 2004). This figure underscores the importance and desperate need for additional research in this area to gain a better understanding of the complex links between the consequences of substance use and offending in order to progress toward more efficient and responsive policies.

According to Goldstein’s (1985) tripartite framework, substance use may precede or accompany crime in at least three ways. That is, substance-driven offending can be economically, systemically, or psychopharmacologically motivated. Economic motivations for crime (e.g., robbery or burglary) may be based on securing financial resources that are needed to obtain drugs. In comparison, systemic crime is characteristic of broader involvement in illicit drug markets (e.g., victimization of one drug dealer by another dealer). Most importantly, at least with respect to the current study, psychopharmacologically driven crime stems specifically from the ingestion of specific substances.

The psychopharmacological effects of certain substances vary significantly and are associated with different types of criminal activity. The acute effects of alcohol, for instance, follow a biphasic time course that typically results in initial feelings of euphoria or relaxation at small doses, but larger doses can lead to memory impairment, behavioral disinhibition, and possibly severe withdrawal (Oscar-Berman & Marinkovic, 2007). These effects have profound implications for certain types of offenses, especially violent confrontational encounters such as assault (Felson & Staff, 2010).

A significant amount of work has examined the relationship between alcohol and several different types of delinquency and criminal offending among adolescents. One study involving students in New York state schools, for example, found that youth who had higher daily average alcohol consumption were more likely to be involved in general delinquent activities (e.g., carrying a weapon, skipping school, beating someone up; Barnes, Welte, & Hoffman, 2002). Findings from the Pittsburgh Youth Study (PYS) highlight the relationship between alcohol and violence: 35% of male youth (ages 11 to 20 years) in the sample reported involvement in violence, and among this group, 93% had ever used alcohol, while 86% had used alcohol frequently (Wei, Loeber, & White, 2004). Alcohol use has also been linked to certain types of violence in the PYS sample, with male youth most likely to report strong-arming, fighting, and attacking others while under the influence of alcohol (White, Tice, Loeber, & Stouthamer-Loeber, 2002).

In comparison, the psychopharmacological effects of illicit drugs may be more likely to lead to other types of crime among juvenile offenders. For instance, marijuana, the most prevalent illicit drug used by adolescents (Johnston, O’Malley, Miech, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2014), affects nearly every bodily system. The short-term pharmacokinetic effects of marijuana include a sense of euphoria linked to decreased anxiety, lowered alertness, increased sociability, and other effects that are characteristic of central nervous system depressants (Ashton, 2001). Although these effects are presumably less likely to lead to aggressive interpersonal types of crime, research has shown that they are in fact associated with non-violent offenses such as theft and property damage (French et al., 2000) and drug-related offenses such as simple possession (Kopak & Hoffmann, 2014a).

In addition to the short-term effects of substance use, which are directly attributed to being under the influence of a given substance, juvenile offenders may experience notable long-term consequences of chronic substance use, which are likely associated with certain types of crime. Research conducted in a national, school-based sample of adolescents found that prolonged alcohol use increased the odds that adolescents became involved in serious violence compared to non-users (Maldonado-Molina, Reingle, & Jennings, 2011). Related to this increased involvement for violent behavior, national data from the United States and a cohort study from New Zealand both found that adolescents’ frequent and heavy alcohol use significantly contributed to involvement in property and violent crime (Fergusson & Horwood, 2000; Popovici, Homer, Fang, & French, 2012). Likewise, chronic juvenile offenders in the Pathways to Desistance Study, in comparison, were more likely than less frequent offenders to exhibit high levels of substance use, including alcohol (Mulvey, Schubert, & Chassin, 2010). These findings are consistent with a growing body of research that shows that alcohol use in adolescence is associated with increased levels of aggression and contributes to a continuous cycle of alcohol use and violence that can persist into later adolescence (Felson, Teasdale, & Burchfield, 2008; Huang, White, Kosterman, Catalano, & Hawkins, 2001). In addition, heavy and chronic alcohol use is associated with higher levels of antisocial behavior (Hussong, Curran, Moffitt, Caspi, & Carrig, 2004), which likely increases the probability that adolescents may become engaged in violent offending.

Chronic substance use may also contribute to a number of additional social problems related to offending behaviors. For instance, persistent substance-using adolescents may be unable to manage their responsibilities at home, at school, and at work, leading them to experience social conflict with their parents (Caffrey & Erdman, 2000), quit a job (Hoffmann, Dufur, & Huang, 2007), and disengage from school (Henry, Knight, & Thornberry, 2012). Recurrent substance use may also lead to strain in social relationships to the point where friends and family members share concern with adolescents over their problematic patterns of use (Neff & Waite, 2007). These problems may be the product of heavy and prolonged substance use, which can also lead to polysubstance use (Martin, Kaczynski, Maisto, & Tarter, 1996; Newcomb & Bentler, 1988), dangerous forms of substance use (e.g., excessive frequent use and use in compromising situations; Trocki, Michalak, & Drabble, 2012), as well as the increased potential for the development of tolerance and withdrawal (Rose, Lee, Selya, & Dierker, 2012). Together, these negative consequences of chronic substance use may converge in such a way that they set adolescents on a course toward serious forms of offending.

Although this body of research suggests that different forms of substance use and substance-related problems are enmeshed with juvenile offending, these relationships have not been examined in detail among detained youth in criminal justice custody. The primary objective of the current study is to replicate and extend current research regarding the acute and chronic psychopharmacological effects of substance use and examine how these effects are related to certain types of offending in a national sample of detained juvenile offenders. Based on existing research, which has largely been conducted with community samples and localized samples of criminal justice–involved youth, it was hypothesized that both the acute and chronic effects of being under the influence of alcohol at the time of offense would be related to a greater likelihood of detention for a violent offense. Conversely, both the acute and chronic effects of being under the influence of drugs at the time of the offense were expected to be related to a greater likelihood of detention for a non-violent property or drug-related offense.

Methods

Data

Archival data from the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement (SYRP), a representative survey of youth in the custody of the juvenile justice system, were utilized for the present study’s planned analyses. The SYRP was developed by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention from 2000 to 2001. The SYRP was administered in a representative selection of state and local facilities identified by the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP) and the Juvenile Residential Facility Census (JRFC) projects (Sedlak & Bruce, 2010). Data were made publicly available in 2013 and have been archived in the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan.

The sample of detained youth included in the SYRP was drawn from eligible juvenile custody facilities in the United States. A two-stage, probability-proportional-to-size (PPS) sampling design (Levy & Lemeshow, 2008) was implemented beginning with the 3,893 facilities that were part of the CJRP in August 2001 and September 2002. The original sampling frame was designed according to facility security level, size (i.e., number of youth in residence), geographic region, proportion of female youth, proportion of adjudicated youth, average length of stay, and type of facility (i.e., public vs. private and whether or not it was a detention center) (Sedlak et al., 2012). Of the 290 facilities initially identified for study participation, a net sample of 204 facilities across 36 states participated in the study.

The PPS method was utilized to generate a representative sample of detained youth. This method was based on classifying youth according to facility stratum. Sampling proportions were computed to extrapolate youths’ representativeness from a given facility (based on the list of CJRP and JRFC facilities) to the population of youth in custody. Parental consent was obtained in loco parentis by 48% of facilities, 38% required written parental consent, 9% required passive consent (which consisted of a response only for the denial of participation), 4% required a combination of consent procedures depending on the types of youth, and 1% required verbal parental consent. Facilities obtained the appropriate form of consent prior to data collection (Sedlak & Bruce, 2010).

Interviews were conducted in an audio-enhanced, computer-assisted, self-interview (ACASI) format. This method allowed youth to respond to interview questions via a laptop computer with pre-recorded interviewer prompts that guided them through the process. Benefits derived from this particular interview format include the ability to elicit sensitive information from participants due to its maximization of privacy (Gribble et al., 2000) and address problems associated with low levels of literacy.

Sample

A total of 7,073 detained youth completed the survey and were included in the archival data set. However, 128 youth were excluded due to missing data for select variables of interest to the current study’s aims. Specifically, 71 respondents did not have complete data for the indicator of alcohol and drug use frequency in the months prior to the offense for which they were detained, 27 respondents did not have complete data regarding the specific offense that resulted in their detention, and 30 respondents were missing information on key control measures. Thus, the total net sample for the present study included 6,945 youth, with an estimated weighted population size of 99,388, according to the sampling design.

Measures

Outcome measure. The key outcome variable of interest in the current study was offense type. The SYRP included a nominal indicator of the most serious offense for which youth were currently detained. Based on official records, this offense profile was collapsed into six categories: (a) murder, rape, or kidnapping; (b) robbery or assault with a weapon; (c) burglary, arson, theft, or other property offense; (d) public disorder or assault without a weapon; (e) drug offenses; and (f) technical violations or other offenses. Burglary, arson, theft, and other property offenses represented the largest proportion of current profiles, with 24% of youth being detained for these crimes. This was followed in sequence by robbery or assault with a weapon (20%); technical violations or other offenses (20%); public disorder or assault without a weapon (17%); murder, rape, or kidnapping (10%); and drug offenses (9%; which included driving a car under the influence of drugs or alcohol).

Substance use indicators. Several indicators of substance use from the SYRP were utilized in the current study’s analyses. Acute substance use effects were represented with a series of items to assess whether youth were under the influence of certain substances at the time they committed their offenses. One item, used to assess alcohol use at the time of the offense, asked youth, “Were you under the influence of alcohol (or drugs) during this crime?” Respondents indicated whether or not they were indeed under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and three mutually exclusive measures were created. One measure was coded “0” for those who were not under the influence of alcohol at the time of the offense and “1” for those who were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the offense. A second comparable measure was coded “0” for those who were not under the influence of drugs at the time of the offense and “1” for those who were under the influence of drugs at the time of the offense. A third measure was coded “0” for those who were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the offense and “1” for those who reported they were under the influence of both alcohol and drugs at the time of the offense.

Chronic problems typically associated with substance use were assessed with a series of five questions including, “In the few months before you were (put in this facility/taken into custody) … was using alcohol or drugs keeping you from meeting your responsibilities at school, home, or work?”; “… did your parents or friends think you drank too much?”; “… did you get in trouble when you were high or had been drinking?”; “… did you use alcohol and drugs at the same time?”; and “… had you been so drunk or high that you couldn’t remember what happened?” Negative responses to these five items were coded “0” and positive responses were coded “1.” The scores were then summed to create an additive scale of substance-related problems indicative of chronic issues related to substance use.

Another set of indicators of the chronic effects of substance use included in the current study were related to youths’ recent frequency of alcohol and drug use. These measures were assessed with the items, “In the few months before you were (put in this facility/taken into custody), about how often were you drunk or very high from drinking alcohol beverages?” and “In the few months before you were (put in this facility/taken into custody), about how often did you use drugs?” Response options included “1 (Never),”“2 (About once a month),” “3 (About once a week),” “4 (Several times a week),” and “5 (Every day).”

Covariates. Several important background factors known to be associated with substance use and offending patterns among juveniles involved in the criminal justice system were included as control variables in the current study. Given the well-established link between prior offending and the likelihood of current imprisonment among juvenile offenders, an indicator was included to assess how many prior convictions detained youth had in their individual offending history (Myner, Santman, Cappelletty, & Perlmutter, 1998). Youth were asked, “Not counting the conviction that led to your stay here, how many times have you been convicted of a crime?” Responses ranged from none to five or more times.

It is also fairly well understood that adolescent delinquency is deeply rooted in social connections through co-offending with accomplices (Reiss, 1988; Warr, 2002). Thus, an indicator of co-offending was included with the item, “Did you commit this crime with someone else?” The binary response set (i.e., 0 = No and 1 = Yes) was used to specify whether or not youth had been in the company of others at the time of the offense.

Several demographic factors that are interrelated to adolescents’ involvement in certain types of offenses were also included in the current study. For instance, evidence shows that participation in certain types of crime can be age-specific (Steffensmeier, Allan, Harer, & Streifel, 1989). To account for this potential contributing factor, a continuous measure of youths’ ages at the time of the interview was included. A dichotomous measure of adolescents’ sex (“0 Male,” and “1 Female”) was also incorporated, given the distinct patterns of offending and juvenile adjudication between male and female youth (Freiburger & Burke, 2011; Siegel & Senna, 2000; Steffensmeier & Allan, 1996).

In addition, the level of educational attainment was included as a covariate, given that education has been shown to be a critical element related to juvenile delinquency (Blomberg, Bales, Mann, Piquero, & Berk, 2011). A binary measure of education level was created to determine if adolescents had less than a high school education (coded “0”) or had some educational experience at the high school or an equivalent level (coded “1”).

Race and ethnicity are also important variables to consider in the analysis of juvenile justice issues. Recent research has shown that racial and ethnic minority youth are more likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system, experience variable legal discretion, and receive disproportionate sentences compared to White youth (Kempf-Leonard, 2007; Parsons-Pollard, 2011). These factors were considered by creating a set of four dummy variables, with one each for White youth, Black youth, and Hispanic youth, and one combined for Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and multi-racial youth (due to the small numbers in each of these categories).

Analyses

The SYRP data set’s inherent unequal probability of selection requires the application of appropriate analytical methods. Failure to take the sampling design into account during analyses is likely to result in deflated standard errors leading to biased estimates (Levy & Lemeshow, 2008). To address these unequal chances of being selected for inclusion in the study (based on size of facility, demographic makeup of the facility, and other factors, such as oversampling female and Hispanic youth), analysis of the SYRP must include the use of 74 replicate weights to compute accurate variance estimates (Sedlak et al., 2012).

This stratified sampling design requires the use of appropriate methods using the replicate weights to properly execute standard error estimation procedures. Jackknife estimation (Rust & Rao, 1996; Wu, 1986) is the method of choice to accurately calculate standard errors within the two-stage PPS design that served as the basis for the SYRP. This approach involves the computation of the population standard error using information drawn from across several subsamples within the original data (Levy & Lemeshow, 2008). All multivariate regression analyses were conducted with STATA 11 using the svy jackknife command (StataCorp, 2009).

Multinomial logistic regression models were selected as the method of choice in the current study for a number of important reasons. These models allow for the analysis of comparisons between multiple dependent variable categories, which is well suited to the comparison of offense types in the context of the present study. These models also allow flexibility in specification of contrasts between categories, allowing for estimation of comparisons between multiple sets of categories in a single dependent variable (Hedeker, 2003). In the current study, this involved the simultaneous estimation of the significance of predictors in one offense type category in contrast to another. For example, juvenile offenders in detention for robbery or assault were compared to those in detention for drug offenses. Finally, multinomial logistic regression results can be expressed in terms of relative risk, which in the current study involved the comparison of the probability of being charged with a violent offense against the probability of being charged with a drug offense, thus offering ease of interpretation (Menard, 2002).

Results

Descriptive statistics. The sample of 6,945 detained youth was predominantly composed of male adolescents (76%). Black youth represented the largest racial group (32%), followed by White (28%), Hispanic (28%), and Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and multi-racial youth (12%), respectively. The mean age of youth was 16.15 years (SD = 1.57) and most (79%) had some educational experience at the high school level. Slightly less than half (47%) of the sample had no prior criminal convictions prior to their detainment. However, if youth had a prior conviction, it was likely they had several, with a mean of 3.26 (SD = 1.65). Over half (54%) reported they had been with an accomplice at the time of the offense.

Substance use was fairly prevalent and somewhat frequent in the sample. The majority (75%) of adolescents reported that they had used alcohol sometime in the past, and data indicated the mean frequency of use approached “once a week” (M = 1.95, SD = 1.52) for these adolescents. Drug use was more frequent, on average, with youth reporting they had used more than “once a week” (M = 2.61, SD = 1.39). The relatively high frequency of both alcohol and drug use was likely related to a similar level of substance use problems experienced by youth, with the mean number of problems falling above 2 (M = 2.25, SD = 1.70). Although the largest proportion of youth (56%) reported that they were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their offense, 21% reported they were under the influence of both alcohol and drugs, 5% reported they were under the influence of alcohol, and 18% reported they were under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense.

Multinomial logistic regression analyses. A multinomial logistic regression model was estimated, with juvenile offenders in detention for drug offenses serving as the reference group. The overall statistical test, outlined by Bayaga (2010), was conducted to assess the relationship between the variables in the model (-2loglikelihood = 11147.97, χ2 (70) = 1756.80, p < .000). This information rendered support for the presence of a significant relationship between the independent variables and the dependent variable.

The effects of both acute and chronic substance use on juvenile offending after adjustment for relevant covariates are presented in Table 1. The acute effect of being under the influence of alcohol was not significantly associated with any offense comparison. In contrast, adolescents who were under the influence of drugs were significantly less likely to be detained for a number of different types of offenses relative to drug offenses. Specifically, adolescents under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense were less likely than those who were not under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense (RRR = 0.32, 95% CI = 0.24 – 0.42) to be in detention for technical or other violations relative to a drug offense. This pattern was also observed for adolescents who were under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense and the likelihood they were detained for robbery or assault with a weapon (RRR = 0.49, 95% CI = 0.37 – 0.64); burglary, arson, theft, or other property offense (RRR = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.32 – 0.53); public disorder or assault without a weapon (RRR = 0.40, 95% CI = 0.29 – 0.56); or murder, rape, or kidnapping (RRR = 0.23, 95% CI = 0.16 – 0.34) compared to a drug offense.

Table 1. (continued) Multinomial Regression Results Predicting Offense Type

 

Technical violation or other vs. drug offense

Robbery or assault with weapon vs. drug offense

Burglary, arson, theft, or other property offense vs. drug offense

Variable

Coefficient (SE)a

Relative risk ratio

95% C.I.

Coefficient (SE)a

Relative risk ratio

95% C.I.

Coefficient (SE)a

Relative risk ratio

95% C.I.

Constant

2.79(.86)**

--

--

1.14(.82)

--

--

2.90(.64)**

--

--

Age

-0.04(.05)

0.96

0.87 – 1.06

-0.06(.04)

0.94

0.86 – 1.03

-0.10(.04)**

0.91

0.84 – 0.98

Female

0.67(.17)**

1.96

1.39 – 2.76

-0.11(.20)

0.89

0.60 – 1.34

-0.01(.20)

0.99

0.66 – 1.47

Education

-0.13(.18)

0.88

0.62 – 1.25

-0.01(.17)

0.99

0.71 – 1.38

-0.16(.17)

0.85

0.60 – 1.21

Hispanic

-0.05(.17)

0.95

0.68 – 1.34

0.33(.18)

1.38

0.98 – 1.97

-0.08(.14)

0.92

0.70 – 1.21

Black

-0.58(.17)**

0.56

0.40 – 0.78

0.36(.19)

1.44

0.98 – 2.11

-0.50(.15)**

0.61

0.45 – 0.82

Other race

-0.17(.22)

0.85

0.55 – 1.30

0.32(.19)

1.36

0.95 – 2.00

-0.22(.25)

0.80

0.48 – 1.32

Prior arrests

0.03(.03)

1.03

0.96 – 1.10

0.05(.03)

1.06

0.99 – 1.13

0.06(.03)*

1.07

1.01 – 1.13

Accomplices involved

-0.44(.13)**

0.64

0.49 – 0.84

1.06(.09)**

2.90

2.42 – 3.47

1.22(.12)**

3.38

2.67 – 4.28

Under influence:

Alcohol

-0.52(.42)

0.60

0.26 – 1.39

0.79(0.46)

2.21

0.88 – 5.51

0.22(.37)

1.25

0.59 – 2.63

Drugs

-1.14(.14)**

0.32

0.24 – 0.42

-0.72(.14)**

0.49

0.37 – 0.64

-0.89(.13)**

0.41

0.32 – 0.53

Both

-1.13(.21)**

0.32

0.21 – 0.49

0.04(.19)

1.04

0.71 – 1.52

-0.57(.16)**

0.56

0.41 – 0.78

Frequency of use:

Alcohol

0.09(.06)

1.10

0.89 – 1.23

0.12(.06)*

1.13

1.01 – 1.26

0.04(.04)

1.04

0.96 – 1.14

Drugs

-0.28(.05)**

0.75

0.68 – 0.84

-0.25(.06)**

0.78

0.70 – 0.87

-0.19(.07)**

0.83

0.73 – 0.95

Substance use problems

-0.06(.05)

0.96

0.86 – 1.04

0.10(.04)**

1.10

1.02 – 1.19

-0.02(.05)

0.98

0.89 – 1.08

Note.*p < .05; **p < .01.

a Jackknife standard errors reported to address the Population Proportional to Size sampling methods.

 

Table 1. (continued) Multinomial Regression Results Predicting Offense Type

 

Public disorder or assault without weapon vs. drug offense

Murder, rape, or kidnapping vs. drug offense

Variable

Coefficient (SE)a

Relative risk ratio

95% C.I.

Coefficient (SE)a

Relative risk ratio

95% C.I.

Constant

3.50(.58)**

--

--

2.74(1.77)

--

--

Age

-0.13(.04)**

0.87

0.81 – 0.94

-0.05(.11)

0.95

0.77 – 1.18

Female

0.69(.19)**

2.00

1.38 – 2.89

-1.38(.22)**

0.25

0.16 – 0.39

Education

-0.16(.14)

0.85

0.65 – 1.12

-0.38(.17)*

0.68

0.49 – 0.95

Hispanic

0.04(.16)

1.04

0.75 – 1.44

-0.40(.18)*

0.67

0.46 – 0.96

Black

-0.12(.13)

0.89

0.68 – 1.16

-0.83(.20)**

0.43

0.30 – 0.65

Other race

0.02(0.19)

1.02

0.70 – 1.48

-0.06(.21)

0.94

0.62 – 1.42

Prior arrests

0.03(.03)

1.03

0.97 – 1.08

-0.04(.04)

0.96

0.89 – 1.03

Accomplices involved

0.28(.14)*

1.32

1.01 – 1.73

0.12(.14)

1.13

0.86 – 1.49

Under influence:

Alcohol

0.50(.49)

1.66

0.62 – 4.42

-0.39(.48)

0.68

0.26 – 1.76

Drugs

-0.91(.16)**

0.40

0.29 – 0.56

-1.46(.19)**

0.23

0.16 – 0.34

Both

-0.45(.22)*

0.64

0.41 – 0.99

-0.37(.18)*

0.69

0.48 – 0.99

Frequency of use:

Alcohol

0.15(.04)**

1.16

1.07 – 1.25

0.02(.06)

1.02

0.89 – 1.16

Drugs

-0.36(.05)**

0.69

0.62 – 0.77

-0.43(.07)**

0.65

0.56 – 0.75

Substance use problems

0.04(.05)

1.04

0.94 – 1.14

0.17(.06)**

1.18

1.05 – 1.34

Note.*p < .05; **p < .01.

a Jackknife standard errors reported to address the Population Proportional to Size sampling methods.

 

There was also a clear pattern regarding the specific type of offenses committed among detainees who were under the influence of both alcohol and drugs at the time of their offense. Reports of using drugs and alcohol immediately prior to the offense were significantly associated with a lower likelihood that adolescents were in detention for technical or other violations relative to drug offenses (RRR = 0.32, 95% CI = 0.21 – 0.49); burglary, arson, theft, or other property offenses (RRR = 0.56, 95% CI = 0.41 – 0.78); public disorder or assault without a weapon (RRR = 0.64, 95% CI = 0.41 – 0.99); and murder, rape, or kidnapping (RRR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.48 – 0.99).

Alcohol use frequency was significantly associated with two offense type comparisons. An increase in the frequency of alcohol use was significantly associated with the likelihood that an adolescent was in detention for robbery or assault with a weapon relative to a drug offense (RRR = 1.13, 95% CI = 1.01 – 1.26). An increase in alcohol use frequency also corresponded with an elevated risk that an adolescent would be detained for public disorder or assault without a weapon relative to a drug offense (RRR = 1.16, 95% CI = 1.07 – 1.25).

Drug use frequency was universally associated with the type of offenses for which adolescents were detained. An increase in the frequency of adolescents’ drug use was associated with a lower relative risk of being detained for technical or other violations relative to drug offenses (RRR = 0.75, 95% CI = 0.68 – 0.84). Increased frequency of drug use also significantly lowered the relative risk of being detained for robbery or assault with a weapon compared to a drug offense (RRR = 0.78, 95% CI = 0.70 – 0.87) and lowered the relative risk of detention for burglary, arson, theft, or other property offense relative to a drug offense (RRR = 0.83, 95% CI = 0.73 – 0.95). Increased frequency of drug use also lowered the risk of detention for public disorder or assault without a weapon (RRR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.62 – 0.77), as well as murder, rape, or kidnapping (RRR = 0.65, 95% CI = 0.56 – 0.75) relative to drug offenses.

The measure of substance use problems was associated with two of the offense type comparisons. For every additional substance use problem experienced by adolescents, the relative risk associated with detention for robbery or assault with a weapon compared to a drug offense increased by a factor of 1.10 (RRR = 1.10, 95% CI = 1.02 – 1.19). Similarly, for every additional substance use problem, the risk of detention for murder, rape, or kidnapping relative to a drug offense increased by a factor of 1.18 (RRR = 1.18, 95% CI = 1.05 – 1.34).

Discussion

The main objective of the current study was to determine the extent to which both acute and chronic effects of substance use were associated with certain types of offenses among detained juvenile offenders. The observed findings clearly indicate that, indeed, acute and chronic effects of substance use significantly influenced the types of offenses for which juvenile offenders were detained. The first important finding indicated offending under the influence of drugs was universally associated with a lower likelihood of being detained for any offense other than a drug offense. In other words, being under the influence of drugs at the time of offense was systematically more likely to increase the probability of detention primarily for a drug offense compared to all other offense types.

Reports of being under the influence of both drugs and alcohol at the time of arrest was associated with a substantially lower likelihood of being detained for almost any other type of offense compared to a drug offense; the exception being robbery or assault. This finding appears to have captured the link between polysubstance use and the probability that adolescents were charged with drug-related offenses at the time of their arrest. Research conducted with adult offenders has shown that polysubstance use is associated with higher rates of offending, presumably increasing the likelihood that multiple drug users come into contact with law enforcement officials (Bennett & Holloway, 2005). It is also possible that polydrug-using adolescents were simply more likely to have an illegal drug in their possession when they came into contact with police. An officer would have discovered the drug during a search, and this likely led to a drug offense charge. Both of these explanations have merit, but future research should focus more specifically on rate and type of offense among polydrug-using juvenile offenders to better understand and empirically substantiate this relationship.

The chronic effects associated with alcohol use frequency were associated with only certain types of offenses (i.e., public disorder and robbery/assault with a weapon). This finding supports prior research conducted on the link between alcohol use and offending. For example, community samples of boys (ages 16 to 19 years) demonstrated that being under the influence of alcohol was significantly related to whether adolescents were involved in interpersonal crimes (e.g., attacking and hitting or aggravated assault; White et al., 2002; Zhang, Wieczorek, & Welte, 1997). Similar results have also been found among incarcerated adults, who were significantly more likely to be incarcerated for physical assault or other violent offenses as opposed to a drug offense if they were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their arrest (Collins & Schlenger, 1988; Felson & Staff, 2010; Sevigny & Coontz, 2008; Zhang et al., 1997). This corroboration of the alcohol use–violent crime nexus among juvenile offenders further reinforces the need to adequately assess and address alcohol use patterns among juvenile detainees in order to provide the most comprehensive intervention and treatment programs for violent offenders.

In contrast to alcohol use, drug use frequency was systematically related to a lower risk of being detained for any other offense other than a drug offense. Unsurprisingly, both the acute and chronic effects of drug use were associated with an increased likelihood of being detained for a drug offense compared to the other offense categories. The findings related to the relationships between drug use and drug offenses are consistent with prior work, which has shown a preponderance of drug possession charges are significantly associated with indicators of persistent heavy drug use (Kopak & Hoffmann, 2014a). Of particular interest, a sizable portion (almost 1 in 10 detainees) of the sample in the current study was held for a drug offense, and drug use frequency was a leading factor related to their detention. This suggests that a comprehensive assessment of juvenile offenders’ drug use patterns is of paramount importance, and early intervention, prevention, and treatment programs should target adolescents detained for drug-related offenses, given that this particular subgroup of at-risk, yet low-level, offenders likely experiences drug use problems. Given the nature of the offending pattern related to drug use frequency observed here, effective interventions designed to curtail problematic drug use among juvenile offenders may impact not only short-term recidivism rates but may also reduce the likelihood of persistent offending into early and later adulthood (Wiesner, Kim, & Capaldi, 2005).

An equally important finding was that the chronic effects of substance use (i.e., frequency of substance use problems) only predicted higher risk of being detained for the most serious types of offenses (i.e., robbery or assault with a weapon; and murder, rape, and kidnapping) compared to drug offenses. The physical and social problems attributed to substance use assessed in the current study were proximal indicators of recurrent substance use despite experiencing several negative consequences related to use. Consistent with prior work, these indicators have been found to be similarly related to offense types among adults involved in the criminal justice system (Kopak & Hoffmann, 2014b; Kopak, Vartanian, Hoffmann, & Hunt, 2014). The juvenile offenders in this sample appear to be following suit and may be most likely to persist in their serious violent behavior, especially if their substance use is not properly addressed (Swahn & Donovan, 2004; White, Lee, Mun, & Loeber, 2012). Thus, given the finding that juvenile offenders with the most problematic patterns of substance use were involved in the most violent types of offending, consideration of substance use problems in this population should be a focal point in efforts to reduce violence.

Strengths and Limitations

Although this study has several strengths, including most notably a national and diverse sample of juvenile offenders, there are limitations that must be acknowledged. This sample of detained youth only includes adolescents in the custody of the criminal justice system and does not include those who have offended but have not had contact with the criminal justice system (i.e., “high-rate winners”; Chaiken & Chaiken, 1990). It is also important to note that the indicators of the chronic effects of drugs and alcohol (i.e., substance-related problems) were designed in such a way that they did not allow for the distinctions of problems specifically related to drugs or to alcohol (e.g., “was using alcohol or drugs…”). Future research in this area should separate measures of chronic substance use problems to provide more detailed information about the connections between drug- and alcohol-related problems as they contribute to certain types of offending patterns.

Conclusion

Overall, the evidence indicates that acute and chronic effects of substance use are important factors related to the detention of juvenile offenders for certain types of offenses. The findings reported here need to be taken into consideration with this youthful offending population, especially with respect to intervention and treatment programming (Andrews, Bonta, & Hoge, 1990; Marlowe, Festinger, Dugosh, Lee, & Benasutti, 2007; Taxman & Thanner, 2006). Implementation of appropriate substance use assessment and treatment protocols are critical to effective judicial decision-making for this special population (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2006). Alternatives to detention, especially those that offer substance use treatment options, must also be made available to juvenile offenders. Based on the observed findings, significant reductions in offending are unlikely to be realized unless treatment programs are utilized within this population. Promotion of “evidence-based sentencing” for juvenile offenders can also be used to address some of the underlying substance use problems related to the offenses that led to detention (Marlowe, 2011).

About the Authors

Albert M. Kopak, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Western Carolina University. He received his PhD in justice studies from Arizona State University. His research focuses on a variety of factors related to substance use disorders, such as involvement in the criminal justice system and treatment outcomes.

Steven L. Proctor, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology at Albizu University–Miami Campus. His line of research focuses on the evaluation of addictions assessment procedures, instruments, and treatment outcomes.

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