Alcohol and Offenders Criminal Justice Research Programme

The Alcohol and Offenders Criminal Justice Research Programme is a portfolio of three studies led by NHS Health Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government (2009-2011). The overarching aim is to understand better the extent and nature of alcohol problems in offenders and which effective interventions can address them, recognising that the criminal justice setting is an opportunity to detect and intervene in an often ‘hard to reach’ population. Reducing alcohol problems in offenders has the potential for wider outcomes such as a reduction in offending and health inequalities.

Alcohol problems are a major public health problem in Scotland and the relationship between alcohol and crime, in particular violent crime, is clear. Half of Scottish prisoners report being drunk at the time of their offence. Offenders are three times more likely to have an alcohol problem (45 per cent are likely to have an alcohol problem compared to 15 per cent of the general Scottish male population). The consequences affect individuals, their families, as well as the health and emergency services and wider society. Overall costs of alcohol misuse in Scotland are estimated to be £3.5bn with alcohol related crime accounting for over £700m.

The national alcohol strategy, ‘Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action (2009)’ outlined the Scottish Government’s commitment to conducting a review of current plans and practice for the identification and treatment of offenders with alcohol problems in criminal justice settings and the identification of good practice.

Funding allocation to support Alcohol and Drug Partnerships in 2011-2012:

Tackling alcohol and drug misuse is a priority for Government, as reflected in the 2011-12 Scottish Budget. Annual funding allocations to support Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) to tackle drug and alcohol misuse were issued to NHS boards in March 2011.

This funding included a further £0.75million, allocated on the basis of each Board´s share of Scotland´s average daily prison population, to support enhanced screening and treatment for people in prison with alcohol problems. This also reflects the planned transfer of responsibility for prisoner healthcare from the Scottish Prison Service to the NHS.

ADPs must consider how they can identify and support the needs of offenders engaged in problematic alcohol use within community settings and within prison (for those ADPs whose area includes a prison), ensuring continunity of care between the two. The Alcohol and Offenders Criminal Justice Research Programme will assist ADPs in this process, while the Scottish Government will continue to work closely with partners on the specific needs of this group.

Updated 23rd July 2014

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