Factors affecting criminal recidivism among participants in the Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program in New South Wales, Australia

Authors


Sarah Larney BA, BSc (Hons.), Research Officer, Kristy A. Martire PhD, Research Fellow. Ms Sarah Larney, NDARC, University of NSW, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia. Tel: (02) 9385 0160; Fax: (02) 9385 0222; E-mail: s.larney@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

Introduction and Aims. The Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program is a diversionary program for people with substance use (primarily illicit drug) problems, based in New South Wales, Australia. The aim of this study was to assess factors relevant to recidivism among MERIT participants. Design and Methods. A longitudinal study utilising administrative data was conducted. MERIT participants entering the program after 1 August 2004 and with a finalisation date of prior to 31 December 2005 were included in the study. Recidivism records for this cohort were obtained for the period 1 August 2004 and 31 December 2007 and linked to MERIT administrative data. Cox proportional hazards modelling was used to identify predictors of recidivism. Results. A total of 1160 MERIT participants were included in the analysis. Compared to non-completers, completion of the MERIT program was associated with a 30% reduction in risk of recidivism. Factors associated with increased risk of recidivism following MERIT included principal drug other than cannabis and higher number of prior convictions. Discussion and Conclusions. Although the design of this study does not permit causal conclusions, these results suggest the MERIT program may be associated with reduced criminal offending. The identification of factors associated with increased risk of recidivism may be helpful in identifying participants in need of higher intensity interventions.[Larney S, Martire KA. Factors affecting criminal recidivism among participants in the Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program in New South Wales, Australia. Drug Alcohol Rev 2010;29;684–688]

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