Much work has investigated the association between substance use, crime, and recidivism, yet little scholarship has examined these associations longitudinally among samples of recently released prisoners. We examine the lagged reciprocal effects of hard substance use and crime, among other covariates, in the context of the prisoner reentry process.
We rely on data from the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) evaluation and employ cross-lagged panel models to examine short-term changes in substance use and crime over time among a large sample of high-risk, former prisoners (N = 1697).
Substance use marginally predicted increased odds of rearrest at one wave, and rearrest significantly (p < .05) predicted increased odds of substance use at another. As such, the results provide limited evidence for a degree of lagged mutual causation; associations vary over the reentry process and are complicated by other realities of life after prison. A key finding is that both behaviors are more consistently influenced by other factors, such as service needs and instrumental and emotional supports.
Although there are relationships between drug use and criminal behavior, these behaviors alone are insufficient explanations for one another in an adult reentry population. Alternatively, the compounding social and personal needs of the reentry population, and the extent to which they received support or services to address these needs, appear to have the strongest influence on both behaviors in the reentry context.