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Careers in Crime and Substance Use: Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2000
72 pages
This report summarizes a recent examination of the effects of work on crime and drug use, as well as the effects of drug use on subsequent illegal earnings.
The study analyzed data collected in the 1970s as part of the National Supported Work Demonstration Project, an experimental study of the effects of employment on criminal offenders, drug addicts, and youth dropouts. Supported Work randomly assigned persons to work in small crews in subsidized employment for up to 18 months. Respondents provided detailed information on monthly drug use, criminal activity, and employment for up to 36 months. By tracking participants over time, the program examined both the time until recidivism and month-to-month changes in work, crime, and drug use. The current analysis goes beyond previous evaluations of the program by applying new statistical techniques that yield support for previous findings as well as new evidence on the relationships among work, drugs, and crime. The study first used event-history analysis to examine the experimental effects of employment on recidivism to drug use and crime. Second, the research applied models of within-person change to examine how drug use and other changing life circumstances affected the amount of money participants earned illegally each month. Findings show that the experimental work treatment was successful in reducing rates of arrest, but not drug use among ex-addicts. Although Supported Work did not reduce drug use, the multivariate model shows that regular employment and the perceived risk of losing one's job were negative predictors of cocaine and heroin use. There was the greatest support for the "opportunity" portion of the multivariate model, with deviant friends and frequent illegal opportunities significant predictors of recidivism to both drug use and crime. There was also some evidence for a causal relationship between heroin and cocaine use and illegal earnings in the within-person analysis. Recommendations are offered for future research and policy. 8 tables, 5 figures, and 77 references

Date Published: April 1, 2000