Community sentencing options for people with substance use problems: review findings summary

Summary findings from review of community sentencing options for people with substance use problems.


This review has sought to conduct a thorough and rigorous analysis of the relevant issues and available data, while balancing this against the need for rapid insights to support swift progress.

The time available, and very large literature on both recovery from substance use and desistance from crime, did not permit a strictly systematic literature review. However the authors have sought to build the most rigorous and relevant picture possible with the time and resources available by attempting to prioritise:

  • More recent research
  • Systematic reviews and meta-analyses, and/or studies with high quality designs, larger sample sizes and longer follow up periods
  • Research that draws on people's lived experience of substance use, treatment and/or the justice system
  • Research that provides clear policy implications
  • Research from Scotland and the UK or from jurisdictions with comparable social / legal contexts

Literature was identified for triage in the Google Scholar and Idox databases, using various combinations of search terms related to 'drugs', 'treatment', and 'court supervision'.

The outcome is a literature review where the majority of works cited are academic journal articles, with some books or book chapters, government reports and relevant unpublished grey literature also included.

The current position in Scotland draws primarily on administrative datasets and published reports from Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland sources. Where time and data access has permitted, the review has created new breakdowns of these data, not previously published, to provide more detailed insights than are available in periodic statistics publications.

Additionally, this review conducted novel analyses of previously unpublished data from the Level of Service / Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI) database. LS/CMI contains data captured in cases where the court requests a social work report prior to sentencing, and also when a person receives a sentence that will involve supervision or custody. The analysis is based on a snapshot of the data taken in July 2023, where cases were completed and closed between 2017 to 2021.

The more detailed analysis that underpins the conclulsions regarding the current position in Scotland and the relevant population will be published in a shortly forthcoming publication.



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