Home > Informing & supporting change: drug and alcohol misuse among people on probation supervision in Ireland.

Rooney, Louise (2021) Informing & supporting change: drug and alcohol misuse among people on probation supervision in Ireland. Dublin: Probation Service.

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There is a well-documented relationship between substance misuse and offending behaviour. Whilst research indicates that some substance misusers commit crime to finance their misuse, it also reveals a significant association with acts of criminal violence. Moreover, a history of substance misuse has been identified as a strong predictor for reoffending, highlighting it as one of the foremost risk factors for criminal recidivism.

In 2019, the Probation Service assessed and supervised 16,607 people in the community, and worked with 2,689 people in custodial settings. This high level of referral annually, in addition to high levels of substance misuse within this cohort, confirms that the Probation Service represents a critical juncture in which assessment, intervention and appropriate referral, can take place as part of the care pathway process. The research has been carried out within the context of Ireland’s national drug strategy ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025’ (Department of Health, 2017). The findings presented herein, may be considered within the context of an innovative national drug policy that prioritises health promotion and harm-reduction over the criminalisation of persons who misuse substances.

In addition, the Probation Service’s recently published report ‘Moving Forward Together: Mental Health among persons supervised by the Probation Service’ by Dr Christina Power, has cross cutting findings that are shared with those identified in this research. The two reports reflect the high levels of mental health and substance misuse comorbidity among those subject to probation supervision and highlight the importance of aligned strategic responses.

In previous research carried out by the Probation Service in the Dublin Metropolitan Area in 1998, 55-60% of offenders were reported to have misused drugs. Further research undertaken in 2011 by the Probation Service highlighted 89% of the adult offender population on probation supervision had misused drugs or alcohol. Of the 89% of those who misused either alcohol/drugs, 27% misused drugs only, 20% misused alcohol only and 42% misused both drugs and alcohol.

The findings of this study paint a similar picture detailing 81% of the sample (comprised of both adult and young persons on supervision) were reported to have a history of alcohol or drug misuse. Combined Drug and Alcohol Misuse (50%) was the most frequent type of misuse, followed by drug misuse only (17%), alcohol misuse only (14%),

This study has endeavoured to build on that previous research. Specifically, it has aimed to identify substance misuse prevalence among persons on probation supervision, examine the relationship between substance misuse behaviour and offending, and explore the engagement of persons supervised and the Probation Service response.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Report
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Harm reduction, Crime prevention
November 2021
173 p.
Probation Service
Place of Publication
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