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Stimulant Summit: Screenings in Jails Can Reduce Recidivism

November 21, 2020

Given their position as a first point of criminal justice contact for many individuals with behavioral health needs, jails can facilitate a reduction in recidivism by implementing screening and assessment practices, said Albert Kopak, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Western Carolina University.

During a session presented Saturday at the Cocaine, Meth & Stimulant Summit, Kopak presented findings from a study of four county jails in the Southeast—three in North Carolina and one in northwest Florida. The four counties had an average population of about 37,500 and an average jail capacity of 108.

Among the findings of the study, 64% of those charged with property offenses met the criteria for a diagnosis of moderate-to-severe stimulant use disorder. Such stimulant disorders were also found among 57% of those charged with non-violent offenses, 41% of those charged with violent offenses and 57% of those who had been previously booked.

“To say exactly how much of a role that is playing, we don’t have that specific information. But the important part of this is that there is an association there,” Kopak said. “We have to take that into consideration if one of our goals is to reduce further or repeat jail admissions for the folks processed through our facilities.”

Among those who met the criteria for moderate-to-severe stimulant use disorder, 67% reported symptoms of multiple mental health conditions, the most common of which were PTSD (57%) and depression (58%); 68% reported having injected drugs.

Although funding at most correctional facilities is tight, Kopak said conducting screening and assessments of individuals on arrival can go a long way toward identifying conditions and putting into motion a plan to connect detainees with providers prior to their release.

“The creativity and ability to do these assessments with even one staff member becomes essential,” Kopak said. “And it can be done.”

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