North East Connected

Addressing alcohol issues in the criminal justice system

Alcohol misuse is the third greatest risk to health worldwide and costs the UK economy upwards of £20 billion annually.

It is a particular issue within the criminal justice system, with research from Teesside University showing that three quarters of people in the UK criminal justice system have a problem with alcohol.

Team ALPHA (Alcohol and Public Health) at Teesside University’s School of Health & Social Care is hosting an international conference to address the costs and consequences of alcohol in the criminal justice system.

The one day event will welcome some of the world’s leading experts on alcohol, public health and criminal justice to address an audience from varying organisations and professions, including police, youth justice, health practitioners, prison officers, students and academics.

Keynote speaker will be Professor Jeremy Bray, from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who is flying in from America specifically for the international conference. Professor Bray’s research focuses on the economics of substance abuse and the economic evaluation of behavioural health interventions and works closely with Professor Dorothy Newbury-Birch at Teesside University.

He will be joined by fellow guest speakers Professor Dorothy Newbury-Birch, Professor Aisha Holloway, from the University of Edinburgh and Professor Simon Coulton, from the University of Kent.

Annually, alcohol misuse is estimated to costs £3.5 billion in healthcare, £11 billion in crime and £7.3 billion in lost productivity. For every £1 invested in specialist alcohol treatment, £5 is saved on health, welfare and crime costs.

Professor Newbury-Birch, Professor of Alcohol and Public Health Research at Teesside University, has led a number of studies around alcohol and the criminal justice system.

Her work has shown that around three quarters of people in contact with the criminal justice system in the UK have a problem with alcohol – compared to around a quarter in the general population. This applies to those who have been arrested in police custody, those in the probation setting and those in the prison system.

And, over a third of people in the criminal justice system are dependent on alcohol compared to around 4% in the general population.

Those classified as having a problem with alcohol are people whose pattern of drinking increases the risk of either physical or psychological problems. Dependency implies the person has a cluster of physiological, behavioural and cognitive patterns which conform to the ‘alcohol dependence syndrome’.

Professor Newbury-Birch said: “Our work shows that alcohol dependency and risky drinking are prevalent throughout all stages of the criminal justice system.

“Conferences such as this are extremely important. In order to get appropriate, evidence-based interventions in place around alcohol we need to be working with practitioners, professionals and individuals involved in the criminal justice system.”

Alcohol and Criminal Justice: Costs and Consequences takes place on Thursday 5 October, from 9.00am to 5.00pm, at the University’s Darlington campus.

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