Criminal reactions and reduction of crime and drug use in drug-using offenders
The frequent association between drugs and crime is consensual, although the nature of this association remains dubious. The likelihood of committing offenses is 2.8 to 3.8 times higher for substance users compared to non-users. Specifically, heroin, crack, and cocaine, especially in abusive/addictive patterns of consumption, are the drugs most commonly associated with criminal behavior. Various programs have demonstrated that treatment is a better cost-effective response for non-violent drug-using offenders than exclusively prison. Participation in Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison programs, common in the USA, appears to have more impact on the reduction of recidivism than exclusively punitive measures. On the other hand, the experience of incarceration may be criminogenic in itself. Therefore, even if incarceration does not worsen the behavior of the offender, its impact in terms of employment, housing, family structure, and reintegration endangers and potentiates the likelihood of recidivism in drug use and crime, due to the absence of informal control sources and social ties. In Portugal specifically, recent data on the perceptions of inmates and prison directors shows that these individuals favor treatment programs, particularly self-help groups and treatment communities, pharmacological programs, and substitution programs, namely with methadone and buprenorphine, as appropriate responses for these individuals. This may also be understood by the fact that these individuals are regarded as being ill and in need of help, and not necessarily as criminals. Concretely, the most recent data in Portugal reveals that 45.6% of drug-using inmates have already been in a treatment program outside prison, with 18.6% currently under treatment in prison. Thus, it is relevant to understand the type of treatment that has been implemented in these settings in order to better reduce drug use and criminal recidivism in drug-using offenders.