Individuals – White et al. (2021)

Study Reference:

White, V. M., Avendano, S. A., Albert, L. A., Zgierska, A. E., Balles, C. J., & Zayas-Cabán, G. (2021). Impact of a community-policing initiative promoting substance use disorder treatment over criminal charges on arrest recidivism. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 227, 108915.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Reactive; Moderately Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined the impacts of the Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative (MARI), a community policing program implemented by the Madison Police Department (MPD) in Wisconsin, on arrests. The goal of the program was to redirect drug-involved adults who had committed a non-violent, drug use-related or other minor crime from the criminal justice system to addiction treatment. If MARI participants complied with the treatment and did not engage in any further criminal offenses during their six-month program, the MPD would "void" the crime that initially brought them to MARI. This means that individuals who completed the MARI program would not have a criminal record associated with the MARI offense.

How was the intervention evaluated?

Researchers compared the risk of recidivism (i.e., arrest) between participants of the MARI program (n = 263) from September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2020 and a comparison group (n = 52) who committed comparable crimes between September 1, 2015 and August 31, 2016, before the MARI program existed. The MARI group was divided into two subgroups: Completers (n = 100), who successfully completed the six-month MARI program, and Non-Adherents (n = 163), who failed to complete the program. Researchers examined the effects of being assigned to the MARI program and of completing it on the likelihood of recidivism within six months. Furthermore, they used statistical methods to predict which individuals in the control group would have been most likely to complete the program if they had been assigned to it. They then assessed the effect of the program on the risk of recidivism among MARI Completers compared to predicted compliers in the control group. The analyses also accounted for differences in age and criminal history between MARI and control group subjects.

What were the key findings?

The study found that assignment to the MARI program alone did not significantly reduce the odds of recidivism within six months. Rather, participants who completed the MARI program experienced a significant 77% reduction in the odds of recidivism compared to those not assigned to MARI. In addition, individuals who completed the MARI program showed a significant 15% reduction in the odds of recidivism compared to those in the control group who were predicted to complete the program if given the opportunity.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

This study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that the diversion of adults who commit non-violent, drug use-related crimes to addiction treatment yields benefits. However, the effectiveness of this approach is contingent upon the ability of the individuals assigned to complete their treatment successfully. This emphasizes the need for further assessment to determine the best way to utilize this approach.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?